The 'Darkest Year Ever' for the NIH?

Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD


October 03, 2013

Our National Interest

By systematically reducing the budget, impeding the efforts of researchers, and discouraging new people from coming into the field, we have in effect decided to fight this battle with one arm tied behind our back. It's the equivalent of trying to get onto a freeway when you are letting air out of your tires and you can't accelerate. This makes no sense. If you look at the overall amount of funding from the NIH, it's a pittance. I don't mean to make light of it -- it's close to $32 billion a year. But in terms of the overall national budget, which is $3.4 trillion a year, it's less than 1%.

No Fortune 500 company spends that little on research and development. If you look at the amount of money that is being spent by other countries, whether it's European or Asian countries, they are spending much more on research, particularly on biomedical research. I understand that times are tough and I understand that there are many special interests and needy causes, and that our government has to represent all of the people and all of the different interests and needs.

But I can't help thinking that biomedical research deserves -- just like military defense -- special consideration, particularly because it has the potential to further our national interests, improve the quality of life, extend the duration of life, and reduce the overall costs of care going forward. I just wanted to point this out. It is a sobering message, and it's one that has great possibilities if we could simply get our act together and better align our national policies and funding priorities with the national needs and our current scientific and medical opportunities.

This is Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, speaking to you today from Columbia University on behalf of Medscape.


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