Scripps Research Institute immunologist Kerri Mowen has put together a petition calling for an increase in the NIH budget. I’ve dealt with the macroeconomic benefits of NIH funding before, and Mowen makes a similar argument:
I think we should be strategic about program cuts, and the NIH should be exempt. In addition to funding discoveries that lead to medical advances, money from the NIH led to $68 billion in economic activity in 2010. It’s simple, really. We need to tackle the current budget deficit by increasing revenue and decreasing health care costs. Funding NIH can accomplish both.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: we have people willing to do the research, companies willing to sell the supplies, and, most importantly, high-quality science proposals going unfunded. The only thing limiting is currency–that is, money. Fund this stuff.
An aside: Yes, we do need to ask if the R01-academic model is sustainable (which I have done–and more on this topic next week). But that’s a matter of resource allocation within NIH. And none of the cutters are proposing what should replace some of the R01-type funding. The research needs to get done.