Consider it progress but many in Congress are coming around to the idea that the current system for funding the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal science programs isn't working. Getting everyone on the Hill to agree what should be done to protect research funding is another matter. Now, one senator has come up with a daring new idea on how to shelter biomedical research funding from the budgetary hurricanes blowing through both chambers.
It was either serendipity or the anxiety of an entire generation of graduate students coming to a boil, but last fall something triggered an explosion of science advocacy on the Emory University campus in Atlanta. A grad student "advocacy journal club" has sprung to life with 50 members, ambitious plans for organizing more, and a working alliance with the dean and with Emory's Office of Governmental Affairs.
By creating laboratory systems that can accurately model all kinds of normal and diseased human cells, tissues, and even organs, advances in stem cell culturing techniques could open the way for a "new era of human cell biology," Lawrence Goldstein, chair of the ASCB Stem Cell Task Force, told the National Institute for General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Advisory Council meeting on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD, Friday. "There are tremendous opportunities using stem cell technologies... to advance our understanding of basic biological principles," Goldstein of the University of California, San Diego, told the NIGMS council when presenting the task force's recommendations. "There are some programmatic goals we think will help us get there," he said.
Just when it seemed that the pool of research funding was down to puddles, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) announced Wednesday a national open competition for 20-25 new HHMI investigators who will be awarded $150 million in new funds over the next five years. All applications are self-nominations and endorsement letters are only required if the candidate becomes a semifinalist.
"Mine!" being among the favorite words of five-year-olds, their parents find themselves remonstrating, over and over "You can't always have things your way." Apparently, this is a lesson lost on most members of Congress.
Contending that no enemy could have devised a system so effective at destroying U.S. science and technology competitiveness as the policies pursued by Congress and state legislatures in "disinvesting" in education and innovation, a former president of Lockheed Martin and longtime presidential science advisor Norman Augustine warned that the U.S. economic engine was in decline in a recent TEDx talk.
Federal scientists, unpack your bags. That's the message from Congress, which for a second time in a matter of weeks passed a bill that would severely limit the ability of federal scientists to attend scientific meetings.
A task force, organized by the ASCB to consider the next scientific steps in the stem cell revolution, unveiled its preliminary report on Friday Nov. 13. The report highlighted three "opportunities" for using cultured human embryonic (hES) and human induced pluripotent (iPS) stem cells in both human and animal model systems. The ASCB Stem Cell Task Force predicted that the greatest scientific payoff for stem cell research in the next few years would come from strengthening our basic knowledge of cell and developmental biology, through better understanding of genetic variation within and between species, and finally by taking advantage of what's already been learned from stem cell biology about biological mechanisms to construct artificial or enhanced organs.
Two days after the government's 16-day closure came to an end, the NIH announced that it would delay the final approval of grant applications submitted in fall 2013 until spring 2014. Two days after that, the NIH changed its mind again, announcing that it would "now reschedule most of the 200+ missed peer review meetings so that most applications are able to be considered at January 2014 Council meetings."
At 12:25 am this morning, President Obama signed legislation ending the 2013 federal fiscal standoff and opening the government after a 16-day shutdown. Minutes later, the Office of Personnel Management sent out an email notifying federal employees that they "are expected to return for work on their next regularly scheduled work day."