Monday, December 27, 2010

ARRA: Putting America to Work

Much of the country, including scientists, benefited from the stimulus plan set forth by President Obama when the economy took a downturn. Biomedical researchers celebrated when this stimulus, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), allotted $10 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), over $8 billion of which went to extramural researchers, creating jobs and supporting innovative research across the country.

Research!America has been tracking where the NIH ARRA money went. Every state and most of the US territories received funding for research projects from the NIH. In total, 15,614 projects were funded by ARRA money from the NIH. You can see how your state fared at the Research!America website.

California was awarded the most NIH ARRA money, bringing in $1.3 billion for 2,117 projects. Stanford University Medical School alone was able to create or save 45 medical research jobs because of the stimulus. These researchers are able to continue studying a range of important biomedical issues, including cancer, congenital heart disease in children, and the functioning of the immune system.

Duke University in North Carolina was able to create or save 166 jobs with the ARRA funding it received. North Carolina ranked sixth in the nation for the $359 million it was awarded in NIH ARRA money. In fact, North Carolina’s fourth district, encompassing Duke University and the University of North Carolina, was the third highest ranked district in the nation, underscoring the excellent research being performed at these universities.

Many researchers agree that the stimulus was a much-needed shot of money. Before ARRA, NIH funding had been flat, meaning it wasn't even keeping up with inflation, resulting in only 20% of the grants submitted being awarded money. This low percentage means brilliant ideas go unstudied and young scientists look for jobs elsewhere. These results are detrimental at a time when the country is worrying about its global competitiveness in science.

Yes, the stimulus helped, but it was only a temporary fix. The ARRA grants will run out in 2011, creating a huge dropoff in research money. The rate of successful grants could fall to 15%, leaving a glut of scientists who again can’t find money for their research. The NIH must receive more funding to be able to support these scientists.

The President is now considering the federal budget for 2012. Urge him to propose $35 billion for the NIH budget because robust investment in science is critical to creating jobs, improving health, encouraging innovation and revitalizing the economy.

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