Friday, September 06, 2013

A Dark Future for Science

I remember when Reagan cut back on funding for medical research. Years later, a friend of mine was allowed to die after getting a spinal cord injury. Within six months, researchers announced a procedure that could prevent much damage if done soon after the accident. I felt really bitter. If Reagan had not cut back on medical research, maybe my friend would be alive.

Within two years, there were several more advances in preventing paralysis from spinal cord injuries.

September 4, 2013

Two years after House Republicans threatened not to raise the government’s debt ceiling, the full brunt of that once-unthinkable offense is now hitting the National Institutes of Health. As Annie Lowrey reported in The Times this morning, 2013 has been the “darkest ever” year for the agency, because the budget cuts demanded by Republicans are taking a significant toll on research into medical cures.

¶One biomedical researcher whose budget was cut by 20 percent said science is falling behind, delaying promising results and discouraging young scientists, who are leaving the field.

¶The sequester — the direct result of the 2011 debt-ceiling fight — has had an immediate effect on the lives of people squeezed out of Head Start programs and public housing, on jobless workers whose benefits were cut, and on government employees and contractors whose lower salaries and layoffs are dragging down the economic recovery. But it has also produced shock waves that will continue harming the country for years to come, because researchers operate on long-term schedules and need a reliable stream of revenue to produce results.

The University of Chicago had to close three labs that treated cancer and gastro-intestinal diseases. George Mason University is laying off HIV researchers. Arkansas State University is losing 30 scientists who developed techniques to detect bombs and nerve gas. In all, half the recipients of federal science funding are laying off researchers, according to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.


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