Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Support scientists, support the sciences, support US innovation

Innovation and creativity are strong, valued traits in the US. Scientific and technological progress are marked by these two traits, long hours, hard work and collaboration. I got into biological anthropology because I believed I could make a real difference with my work and that it would translate into improving the lives of women in the US and around the world. I wanted to look at the modern problems of our ancient bodies, like PCOS and endometriosis, explore their origins and understand how to prevent them.

There are two issues at stake here in the conversation about the proposed House cuts via HR 1. The first is the survival of young investigators like me, the second the vibrancy of public universities like the one where I work.

I am in my third year as a tenure-track professor in a field that straddles the social and life sciences - my work is expensive by anthropological standards, but probably cheap by other basic science standards. I am on an NIH R21 proposal (no score yet) as a far-down-the-list collaborator. I am in my third submission at the NSF as a PI. Were I to do my work at the level I want, I would need over $100,000 a year in direct funding, ideally much more. So far I have received two small internal grants that, together, don't cover a year of work. I have found some very interesting ways to do some cheap yet awesome science, but it takes a lot longer to do it this way than to do it with money. I don't have any publications in the pipeline from this work yet (thankfully this will change any day now), in part because of its difficulty and in part because I spend all my waking hours writing grants and teaching.

Public universities used to get their money from, you know, the public. But funding has been reduced at the state and federal level, to the point that public universities survive on two sources of income: overhead from the grants faculty produce, and tuition from students. Thus, public universities recruit out-of-state students and increase their overall tuition, and we faculty frantically try to fit in one more grant proposal in time for the next grant cycle.

If young investigators are starved, if public universities are starved, we lose some of the greatest resources this country has to offer both in the production of innovative science and the education of the majority of our citizens.

Please read the note below and call your Congresscritters tomorrow.

Dear Colleague,

For months the new House leadership has been promising to cut billions in federal funding in fiscal year (FY) 2011. Later this week the House will try to make the rhetoric a reality by voting on HR 1, a "continuing resolution" (CR) that would cut NIH funding by $1.6 billion (5.2%) BELOW the current level - reducing the budget for medical research to $29.4 billion!
We must rally everyone - researchers, trainees, lab personnel - in the scientific community to protest these draconian cuts. Please go to [this link] for instructions on how to call your Representative's Washington, DC office today! Urge him/her to oppose the cuts to NIH and vote against HR 1. Once you've made the call, let us know how it went by sending a short email to the address provided in the call instructions and forward the alert link to your colleagues. We must explain to our Representatives how cuts to NIH will have a devastating impact on their constituents!


William T. Talman, MD
FASEB President

hat tip Isis, drdrA, ProfinTraining, and many others

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