More Federal Research Funding Going Toward Biodefense
Relatively flat federal budgets for scientific research in recent years and an increased emphasis on defense-related research could "lead to fewer medical and scientific advances and ultimately to severe impact on the economy," according to experts, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. President Bush in his fiscal year 2006 budget requested $132 billion for scientific research, a slight decrease from FY 2005, when adjusted for inflation, and a 2% increase since FY 2003 in inflation-adjusted dollars.
According to an American Association for the Advancement of Science analysis, spending on nondefense research has increased by 14% since 2001, while spending on defense-related research is up 48%.
NIH, which uses a system to award grants that ranks the first percentile as the highest and the 100th percentile as the lowest, this year narrowed the score necessary for a grant from the 16th percentile to the 12th percentile. The success rate for NIH grant requests has decreased from 34% in 2001 to 24% in 2005, and under Bush's requested budget it would decline to 21% next year.
Kei Koizumi, a director of AAAS, said, "The additional biodefense research dollars are, I guess, crowding out the non-biodefense research."
Norka Ruiz Bravo, NIH deputy director of extramural research, said part of the reason for the lower success rate is that the number of applications received by NIH increased from 37,000 in 2001 to 55,000 in 2005.
Richard Schultz, chair of the University of Pennsylvania's biology department, said that with more researchers not being awarded federal funding, he is concerned that many will switch to the private sector (Avril, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/5).
The departments of Commerce and Defense have proposed stricter rules for foreign-born researchers at universities, Knight Ridder/Akron Beacon Journal reports.
A DOD proposal would require some foreign students to perform research in "segregated laboratories and wear special badges, coded to restrict access to labs," according to Knight Ridder/Beacon Journal.
A DOC proposal would require universities to apply for a license before allowing some foreign-born faculty, staff and students to use basic scientific equipment. The rule also would apply to foreign-born scientists who are U.S. citizens.
The new federal rules would give the greatest scrutiny to 12 "countries of concern," including China, India, Israel and Russia.
The public comment period for the proposals -- which still are preliminary -- recently closed, and final decisions are expected in early 2006 (Krieger, Knight Ridder/Akron Beacon Journal, 11/7).