Last month, I posted a callout for biomedical researchers to vent a little. Over the course of my reporting on funding at the National Institutes of Health—the world’s biggest source of biomedical research money—I’d heard from scientists in interviews, in the Atlantic comments section, and on social media about how lackluster funding at the agency crumples careers and hampers scientific progress.
But lay people—myself included, once upon a time—might not know why that is. So I asked researchers for more first-person details: How does the agency’s funding, which was flat for more than a decade before last year, trickle down to their labs? And why do they take funding so personally?
Before the agency received a $2 billion bump in funding last year, budgets had been flat for more than a decade. In fiscal-year 2017, the NIH looks poised for another increase: A House subcommittee just approved a $1.25 billion boost at a meeting Thursday, and last month, Senate appropriators signed off on a $2 billion increase.
In response to my reader callout, a researcher at a Midwestern medical center, Prachee Avasthi, emailed a helpful summary describing how funding directly translates to quality of life in a research lab. She called my question confusing, because funding is “not just personal; it’s everything”: