Monday, August 26, 2013

Sequester threatens American scientific research for a generation

Sequester threatens American scientific research for a generation
by Laura Clawson
Daily Kos
Aug 14, 2013

HIV research. Cardiovascular disease research. Diabetes research. Research that could improve our treatment of everything from the common cold to foot-and-mouth disease, from muscle injuries to muscular dystrophy.

Those are just a few of the projects now underway that are seriously endangered by the sequester's cuts to science funding, and the results could be catastrophic.

Under George W. Bush, funding for the National Institutes of Health rose to $30.8 billion, and under President Obama, the stimulus included $10.4 billion in additional funding. Now, with NIH funding falling to $29.1 billion, scientists interviewed by Huffington Post's Sam Stein spoke of having to cut salaries or cut lab staff altogether, of seeing scientists choose jobs in other countries or other fields rather than face the circumstances in research science in the U.S., and of having to consider euthanizing their lab mice.

These aren't just the threats of a brief period in time:

"Medical research is not like building widgets. We cannot turn it on and off," [the Medical College of Wisconsin's Dr. William Jackson] said noting that, among other things, his staff would move on and his project would be tarred as unsuccessful.

And if staff move on to other countries or out of science altogether, that could create a brain drain that will weaken scientific research in the U.S. for a generation or more. Like so many other austerity-driven policies, it's appallingly shortsighted. But "austerity-driven and appallingly shortsighted" is among the top contenders for the motto of today's Republican party, so much of this research is and is likely to remain endangered.

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