Bethesda, MD - The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee stating that the fiscal year (FY) 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) appropriations bill will underfund and over-regulate the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Noting that the legislation includes a number of restrictive policy provisions, the FASEB letter expressed deep concern about the impact on the agency if the new limitations are implemented. "The bill provides insufficient funds for NIH, imposes burdensome and duplicative certification requirements on NIH, and undermines the efforts of NIH to manage its portfolio effectively," stated FASEB President Judith S. Bond, PhD.
If implemented, the policy provisions in the House LHHS appropriations bill could have a deleterious effect on the nation's biomedical research enterprise. The most damaging of the provisions, found in Section 223 of the bill, would impose a crushing and unnecessary administration burden on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), requiring that all "programs, projects, and activities have a measurable impact on public health." If applied to FY 2011 funding, this provision would have required the certification of each of the nearly 64,000 grants, contracts, and awards funded by NIH. Section 223 certification is duplicative of and far inferior to the existing NIH peer review process, which is conducted by thousands of independent volunteers who have the relevant expertise to evaluate the scientific merit and potential public health impact of grant applications.
Other provisions in the House LHHS bill may inadvertently impede NIH's ongoing efforts to improve the stewardship of its resources. For example, the legislation prescribes the number of training awards that NIH should fund in FY 2013, potentially undermining the agency's efforts to address issues raised in the recently released report of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director Working Group on the Biomedical Research Workforce. In addition, the bill's prohibition on making any changes to the Clinical and Translational Science Awards program prior to the completion of an Institute of Medicine review could deny NIH the ability to make rational management decisions in the interim. The FASEB letter also noted that the provision prohibiting the use of funds for economic research could prevent NIH from supporting research that has important public health implications, including efforts to consider how socioeconomic factors contribute to health and disease.
Senate appropriators also received a copy of the FASEB letter to the House Appropriations Committee. FASEB looks forward to working with Congress, NIH, and the research community to sustain the nation's commitment to biomedical research and ensure that any policy changes do not constrain agency efforts to facilitate long-term progress in science and technology.
FASEB is composed of 26 societies with more than 100,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Celebrating 100 years of Advancing the Life Sciences in 2012, FASEB is rededicating its efforts to advance health and well-being by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.