Props to Repubs: Specter gets $10bn for the NIH

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Senator Arlen Specter secured an additional $10bn for the NIH

Sorry I missed this last week, but this piece from the Times is great to see:

In return for providing one of only three Republican votes in the Senate for the Obama administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, he was able to secure a 34 percent increase in the health agency’s budget — to $39 billion from $29 billion.

 

Nearly $2 billion is intended for building and equipment projects at the N.I.H. campus in Bethesda, Md., as well as at universities across the country. But most of the money will go to pay for as many as 15,000 additional grants submitted by scientists at universities across the country.

 

The National Institute of Health is a huge engine of science and medicine not only in itself, but in the grants that it provides to top university researchers all across the nation. Increasing the number 0f grant awards to new researchers (or established researchers who wish to expand) with new ideas will necessarily yield important discoveries that will benefit the health of our society as well as that of the global community. 

The health institutes currently issue 45,000 such grants at an average cost of $360,000 a year. And although most grants are financed for four to five years, administrators said they would give priority to projects that could be completed in two years.

ucsf-dusk

UCSF received over $439 million in NIH funding in 2007, and this figure will certainly increase with Sen. Specter's stimulus provision. The employment generated by the increased NIH funding is a good thing for California, in terms of employment at its many major medical research facilities and the tax revenue earned from that employment.

Another great aspect of this stimulus provision is that it is so easy to see how it can really stimulate the economy. First off, advances in health science, as mentioned above, lead to a healthier, and therefore more productive workforce. Such advances also raise the possibility of cheaper and more efficient medical care, thereby decreasing those costs to individuals, companies that provide health coverage, and the government. Secondly, as someone who has been (at least partially) employed by the NIH, and known many, many others whose salaries are completely funded by NIH grant money, I know that NIH grants get people hired. NIH grants are big, which allows researchers to not only buy big ticket scientific equipment, but hire laboratory assistants, research technicians, and postdoctoral scholars to meet the needs of the newly funded project. If even 1/4 of the $8bn in new grant money is used to employ new workers (at an average of $37000 yearly {I just made up this figure, but it seems reasonable based on my experience in the system}), we could be looking at between 50,000 and 60,000 new jobs. And again, these jobs will be directly tied to improvements in health across the world. 

So many thanks to Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, for securing this provision for the stimulus. Now…uh…can I get a job?

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