I’ve been looking at <a href="the Recovery Bill working its way through the House Appropriations Committee, and, regarding NIH funding, I have a lot of the same doubts that ScienceBlogling Jake does. I’m concerned that it spends too much money building capacity without any commitment to provide research funds to use that equipment.
One of the very good things this bill would do is to provide much-needed repairs and upgrades to existing federal research facilities. But the bill also provides for improve non-federal research facilities (p. 138):
For an additional amount for ”National Center for Research Resources”, $1,500,000,000 for grants or contracts under section 481A of the Public Health Service Act to renovate or repair existing non-Federal research facilities
While the bill also calls for increased funding for research of $1.5 billion (the NIH budget is ~$20 billion). But, like Jake, I think if this isn’t sustained, then we will once again have built a whole lot of capacity, increased the pool of researchers, only to cut their legs out from under them. There’s also no mechanism to restore reduced grant funds to their original levels (which would also provide a more immediate stimulus).
The other problem with this bill is that AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) doesn’t get enough funding. It does get an increase, but it’s designed to promote “comparative effectiveness research.” AHRQ should be getting a lot more money to implement, at least on a regional scale, the results of this research. We don’t need more ‘model’ programs, we need to learn how to implement these programs beyond a couple (or one) of medical facilities.
Nonetheless, this better than anything Little Lord Pontchartrain ever proposed. If the downstream funding actually does materialize, then this will be a good thing for science.
And by the way, why aren’t we just doubling the NSF budget flat out; it’s a disgrace.