Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Biomedicine to sell itself as a local hero

Lobbyists plan to push the economic benefits of medical research.

Lobbyists for biomedical science are changing tactics in an attempt to reverse what they see as a worrying decline in funding. As well as talking generally about the benefits of biomedical research, they plan to tailor their arguments to local economic issues, close to lawmakers' hearts.

In his 6 February budget request, President George W. Bush asked Congress to keep funding flat for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2007. This would mark the fourth consecutive year that NIH funding has not kept pace with inflation, and advocates are worried. “We're going to have to change the way we've done things in the past,” says Jon Retzlaff, director of legislative relations for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

Lobbyists say they aim to dispel the notion that the NIH should be satisfied with the fact that its budget was doubled between 1999 and 2003. They claim that, because of inflation, the agency now has 10% less purchasing power than in 2003, and is on track to issue 3,000 fewer grants in 2007 than in 2003. They also argue that the budget doubling spurred many young people to enter biomedical science. The erosion of that money is leaving these new researchers out in the cold.

“We're eating our seed corn,” says FASEB president Bruce Bistrian, a molecular biologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. “We could lose a generation of researchers, or at least several years' worth.”

So advocacy groups are going local, by showing lawmakers how NIH funding has benefited their states and home districts. Retzlaff says that FASEB will start with districts served by members of the powerful House budget committee, chaired by Republican Jim Nussle of Iowa. And the Association of American Medical Colleges will emphasize that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is the largest private employer in western Pennsylvania.

“There are a lot of places around the country that would like to emulate Pittsburgh,” says Dave Moore of the association's office of government relations. “It's important for us to talk about the role the NIH plays as a driver for local economies.”


Related links

Related links

Related links in Nature Research

US space scientists rage over axed projects

Physics wins the US budget race

Young biologists rejected as NIH budget squeezes training grants

Biology hogs the science budget, senator complains

Medical research news

Related external links

The budget documents

NIH budget information

Response from FASEB

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Check, E. Biomedicine to sell itself as a local hero. Nature 439, 769 (2006).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing