The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology held a congressional briefing Tuesday about the effects that a long-term continuing resolution would have on the biomedical research community.
Speakers included Harry Stein, director of fiscal policy at the Center for American Progress; Thomas Baldwin, president-elect of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and professor at the University of California, Riverside; and James Brown, executive director of the STEM Education Coalition.
Here are the highlights:
Stein described a CR as “bad governing,” then added “a CR is an unforced error by congress due to a broken budget process,” attributed to “the choices people make.”
A long-term CR would lead to flat funding levels for all federally funded agencies, including the National Institutes of Health. “A CR would prevent agencies from performing long-term planning, leading to a lot of waste,” said Stein.
Flat funding would lead to a “slow squeeze” where past authorized budget increases would be delayed or removed due to money not being available.
“People that care about non-defense discretionary programs need to stick together,” Stein concluded.
From a Scientist’s perspective, Baldwin spoke on how the ambiguity of a CR would prevent vital research from being conducted, specifically due to grant uncertainty.
Baldwin stated that if a CR is passed, scientists nationwide could be forced to reduce their spending by 10%. “A reduction of 10% would deplete a lab’s supply budget, or even force universities to eliminate faculty positions.”
Additionally, Baldwin expressed how a CR would be detrimental to the NIH’s ability to award grant funding to researchers. New grant awards could be stalled, and previous grants that were reviewed and scored well could have to wait months, if at all, to be funded.
Grant uncertainty would be most concerning for new career scientists who need to secure grant funding to keep their positions/ advance in their careers.
Brown ended the briefing by focusing on scientific education, specifically how a CR could lead to STEM programs losing federal funding.
STEM education programs provide a vital role in ensuring the U.S. remains at the forefront of scientific, economic and technological innovation in the future.
The 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) aimed to narrow the federal government’s role in elementary education. Title IV of the ESSA, provides federal funds for school district across the nation.
Brown mentioned that under this program, for the first time, high-needs schools would have access to new federal resources for activities including science, technology, and engineering competitions and high-quality STEM courses.
Brown warned that if a CR was passed, funding for these programs could be reduced or even cut, preventing millions of students across the nation from having access to STEM education.
The ASBMB will continue to push Congress to pass an omnibus package to fully fund the federal government for fiscal year 2017, and to provide the bipartisan budget increases the House and Senate previously approved for the NIH.
Video recording of the briefing below: