Science and the 2012 election

While science policy did not figure prominently in the 2012 election cycle, the outcomes of several races in the U.S. House and Senate could have significant effects on future policies regarding the conduct of science.

One of the biggest losses for biomedical research came in California. Republican Brian Bilbray, a strong proponent of biomedical research from the San Diego area, appears to be headed for defeat in the state’s 52nd district. Bilbray is the co-chair of the House Biomedical Research Caucus and was co-author of a “Dear Colleague” letter that asked House members to support a budget for the National Institutes of Health of $32 billion for fiscal 2013. His ardent support of biomedical research certainly will be missed.

The committees that deal with science policy saw little change, with one exception. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will look considerably different in the next Congress. Prominent Republicans on the committee, such as physiologist Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland and Todd Akin of Missouri, lost general election races. Illinois Republican Judy Biggert lost to Democrat Bill Foster, a former particle physicist. In all, one-third of the committee (six Republicans and four Democrats) will not be returning for the 113th Congress. Additionally, the current chairman of this committee, Texas Republican Ralph Hall, is term-limited, and several members are expected to vie to replace him.

The composition of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees that allocate research funding will remain largely the same. Arguably the biggest shakeup is in the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies subcommittee, which sets the funding level for NIH. The current chairman of the committee, Montana Republican Denny Rehberg, did not seek re-election to the House, and ended up losing in his bid for the U.S. Senate. It is expected that Jack Kingston of Georgia will take his place.

Stay tuned to the ASBMB Policy Blotter for updates on how science policy and research funding will be handled in the next Congress.

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