Why Cutting Science Funding Would 'Break' Cancer Research

Siddhartha Mukherjee and others say the budget situation in Washington is “depressing.”
More

Kris Krug/flickr

As Congress continued its standoff over Obamacare and the budget on Thursday, doctors and scientists on the other side of the country confessed that they’re worried about Washington. Siddhartha Mukherjee, the author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, was among those who spoke against the political shenanigans that might derail medical research in interviews at The Atlantic Meets the Pacific.

“I’m happy to talk about Washington, but I will say, it’s a depressing conversation,” Mukherjee said. “What you cannot do with cancer, or with any scientific project, is you can’t say, ‘Well, you know, we’ve run out of money today, so let’s put it on hold for five years and when the budgets free up and the time happens, we will come back to it.’ That just doesn’t happen. Science is a continuous conversation, and if it breaks, it’s a broken conversation. It’s a peculiarity of this ecosystem that while it produces dividends on the one hand, it is actually very fragile.”

Scott Lippman, the director of the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California San Diego, echoed Mukherjee’s concerns. “Trying to get NIH funding is a serious problem – I don’t want to say crisis, but it’s heading that way. I was at a meeting few days ago in Washington … and Kathleen Sebelius spoke. The concern, she said, is that we may lose the talent we have in this country to go to other countries if we don’t do something. We have to push for increased funding, particularly in cancer, which is transformative.”

Like all other federal agencies, the National Institutes of Health was hit by the sequester in the spring, and it will be required to trim $1.55 billion from its budget in this fiscal year.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Emma Green is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the National Channel, manages TheAtlantic.com’s homepage, and writes about religion and culture.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

'Stop Telling Women to Smile'

An artist's campaign to end sexual harassment on the streets of NYC.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In