U.S. Research Funding Continues to Flatten As U.S. Health Costs Climb

In August 31 Science
Thursday, August 30, 2007

WASHINGTON—August 30, 2007—Total U.S. investment in health-related research grew by a modest 4.2% from 2005 to 2006, significantly slower than the 6.8% increase in U.S. health costs, according to a report released today by Research!America. The report is covered in the August 31 issue of Science.

The nation spent approximately $116 billion last year on research to find new ways to treat, cure, and prevent disease and disability. This represents a decrease relative to total health costs. For every dollar spent on health overall, 5.5 centswent to research in 2006, the smallest portion since 2001.This decline continues a trend that started in 2005, following a flattening in federal research spending that began in 2004.

“The importance of federal research investment in priming the pipeline for other sources of research funding cannot be overestimated,” said the Honorable John Edward Porter, chair of Research! America. “The U.S. government’s contributions to basic science have made our nation the world leader in medical and scientific discovery—a position at risk if federal funding does not keep pace at least with biomedical inflation.”

The Research! America report, “2006 Investment in U.S. Health Research,” finds that spending by sector on health-related research was flat or rose just slightly from 2005:

  • The combined health research budgets of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies were essentially flat from 2005 to 2006, maintaining a trend that began in 2004.

  • In 2006, the largest federal agency that funds health-related research, the NIH, saw its budget remain flat for the third year in a row, at $28.5 billion.

  • Industry R&D spending, which has for several years exceeded federal sources, increased only slightly from $61 billion in 2005 to $64.5 billion in 2006. However, this growth is overshadowed by the fact that a leveling out of public funding has in the past led to a leveling out of private funding.

  • Health research funded by universities, independent research institutes, voluntary health associations, foundations and state and local governments combined remained nearly flat between 2005 and 2006, at $13.7 billion in 2006 and almost $13 billion in 2005.

“With an aging generation of baby boomers, new health challenges linked to globalization, and an obesity epidemic, we cannot afford to let this trend continue,” said Mary Woolley, president of Research!America. “Americans see science as important to our health, competitiveness, education system, and standard of living—our nation’s leaders need to fund research accordingly.”

The report was compiled by Stacie Propst, PhD, senior director of science policy & outreach, and Emily Connelly, manager of science policy, for Research!America.

Research!America is the nation’s largest not-for-profit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, it is supported by more than 500 member organizations, which represent more than 125 million Americans.

Ms. Woolley and Dr. Propst are available for further comment.

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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