The outlook seems positive at first glance for psychocardiology researchers in search of funding from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), says Pat Kobor, senior science policy analyst in APA's Science Policy Office.
NHLBI is one of only two institutes that estimates that their funding for behavioral and social science research will go up, while their overall budget goes down, says Kobor. The institute spent $129.7 million on behavioral and social science research in 2005. The 2006 estimate was $130.35 million, and President Bush's 2007 budget calls for $131 million. Although that research portfolio includes work by sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists as well as work by psychiatrists, says Kobor, the bulk of it goes to psychologists.
A few concerns loom on the horizon, however. One is NHLBI's recent reorganization of its extramural funding infrastructure.
"There used to be a behavioral medicine branch, but now they've folded behavioral medicine into a larger clinical applications and prevention branch," explains Kobor. "There's some concern that may not serve the research well."
Another worry is the new strategic plan NHLBI is developing.
"There's some concern that the institute's leadership may be downgrading the importance of their behavioral research portfolio," adds Kobor.
APA is working to prevent these worrisome scenarios from becoming a reality. Its Science Policy Office will solicit comments from interested APA members to help craft APA's response to the strategic plan once it's available. Kobor and her colleagues will work to persuade members of Congress to insert language in appropriations bills that highlight behavioral research. And they'll work to increase NIH's overall funding.
"That's a big part of what we do," says Kobor. "It's difficult for any institute to expand its behavioral research funding if its budget is shrinking."