New data compiled by a coalition of top scientific and medical research groups show that a large majority of scientists are receiving less federal help than they were three years ago, despite spending far more time writing grants in search of it. Nearly one-fifth of scientists are considering going overseas to continue their research because of the poor funding climate in America.
The study, which was spearheaded by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) and will be formally released next week, is the latest to highlight the extent to which years of stagnant or declining budgets, made worse by sequestration, have damaged the world of science.
More than 3,700 scientists from all 50 states participated in the study, offering online responses in June and July 2013. They offered sobering assessments of the state of their profession. Eighty percent said they were spending more of their time writing grants now than in 2010, while 67 percent said they were receiving less grant money now than they were back then. Only two percent of respondents said they had received money from their employers -- predominantly academic institutions -- to make up for the loss of federal funds.
The drying up of resources has had a damaging effect on the research being conducted, forcing scientists to curtail their projects or trim their staffs.
According to the survey, 68 percent of respondents said they do not have the funds to expand their research operations; 55 percent said they have a colleague who has lost a job or expects to soon; and 18 percent of respondents said they were considering continuing their careers in another country.
Sequestration is responsible for much of the damage being done to scientific research. The sweeping federal budget cuts have decreased funding for research and development projects across a wide swath of government agencies by $9.3 billion. The $1.7 billion budget cut to the National Institutes of Health alone has meant more than 700 fewer grants were funded this year, NIH Director Francis Collins told The Huffington Post.
But sequestration isn't entirely to blame. According to ASBMB, the purchasing power at the Department of Defense, NASA, the Department of Energy, and NIH has declined by between 20 and 30 percent since 2004 because the research budgets for those agencies has not kept up with inflation.
"Globally, the United States invests more real dollars in research and development than any other country," the study notes. "However, in terms of percentage of gross domestic product, the United States is reducing its investment in scientific research. In fact, of the 10 countries investing the most money in scientific research, the United States is the only country that has reduced its investment in scientific research as a percentage of GDP since 2011."
The respondents to the ASBMB survey were kept anonymous, though their academic institutions were often listed. But The Huffington Post has separately been compiling testimonials of scientists, researchers and academics about how they have been affected by budget cuts. A few of them are presented below, slightly edited for clarity.