Speak up or Watch out: Why medical research is at risk with Sequestration

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It’€™s all over the news: The federal government is headed for significant, across-the-board budget cuts. Sequestration, or 10 years of automatic spending cuts, is a self-inflicted consequence passed by Congress, aimed to be a drastic outcome of failing to agree on a federal deficit-reduction package. Some Members of Congress argue that the sequester will not have a significant impact; they claim that the 5.1% cuts made in 2013 are only a drop in the bucket and there is no need to worry. However, the amount of money that the National Institutes of Health will lose, $1.56 billion, could fund the entire National Institute of Mental Health for more than a year. Cuts to the National Science Foundation total $359 million, more than 80% of the entire FY12 budget from NSF for homeland security research, including emergency planning and response. Research!America’€™s fact sheet on the effects of sequestration on these agencies, as well as the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control can be found here.

What will cuts to NIH, NSF and other agencies mean to biomedical and health research?

The NIH and NSF fund the basic science that fuels medical innovation and the health services research that enables smart policy making by all levels of government and by health care providers in support of high-quality health care delivery. The CDC funds an enormous range of research and public health services essential to the basic health and safety of Americans. Cuts to these agencies will compromise medical progress, stymie deficit reduction and render it more difficult to reinvigorate our economy. Cuts to public health funding, which is already inadequate, will degrade the foundation for safe and healthy communities across our nation. In short, these cuts will have dramatic impact on the health of our nation. Polls commissioned by Research!America consistently show that Americans highly value medical research and would even pay higher taxes if they knew the dollars would be devoted to that research. And we will never bend the health care cost curve without medical research to overcome disabling and costly conditions like Alzheimer’€™s and health services research to identify and evaluate viable and patient-sensitive cost savings strategies.

Finally, cuts to funding for biomedical and health research jeopardize the product of years of investment in our nation’€™s research capabilities. Those investments have produced the most sophisticated and productive medical research enterprise in the world. If funding declines, so will opportunities for young scientists. So will the capacity for our nation’€™s researchers to break new ground. So will the pipeline that fuels private sector innovation and jobs.

Think about it: Advances in ongoing and promising medical research will invariably be halted due to a lack of funds for these projects. One such project is ongoing research at Georgetown’€™s Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, DC. There, researchers have worked for years on a preventative strategy for breast cancer focused on anti-estrogen treatment, and this work is ready to move into clinical trials. Without funding, this lifesaving research could be halted. A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the frequency of metastatic breast cancer is on the rise in young women, a troubling trend in light of the threat to biomedical and health research funding.

So what can we do?

Contact your representatives in Congress and tell them how important it is to STOP sequestration! Click here to send an email now.

Sign the petition from AAAS to ’€œSpeak Up for Science.’€

Share these resources with your professional network, and encourage your peers to speak up for research now!

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If concerted, long-term investments in research are not made, America will lose an entire generation of young scientists.
Brenda Canine, PhD; McLaughlin Research Institute, Montana