Also in this Issue

A Guide for the Perplexed—Congressional Action on Research Funding

Congress and the new Administration have also been busy making spending decisions that affect science—and some of these decisions are quite positive for researchers.

By Patricia Kobor

We know there is a lot of economic news coming out of Washington these days, and much of it is troubling. However, Congress and the new Administration have also been busy making spending decisions that affect science—and some of these decisions are quite positive for researchers. So we at Psychological Science Agenda offer you this quick guide to the major science funding bills either recently enacted or on their way.  We focus on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), which are the major sources of funding for much of psychological research.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

This is the HUGE economic stimulus legislation signed by President Obama on February 17. Funding in this bill is intended to be spent in one to two years, and the funds are added to the regular annual appropriations.

The NIH receives $10 billion within this legislation.  $8.2 billion is directed to the Office of the Director, and $7.4 billion of that will be transferred to the Institutes, Centers, and Common Fund, with $800 million being retained for the Office of the Director. (As described elsewhere in this issue of PSA, at least $200 million of the Director’s funds will be used to support the new Challenge Grants.) The remainder will go to buildings and facilities construction or renovation, either on the NIH campus or extramurally through the National Center for Research Resources.

The legislation provides NSF with $3 billion. Of that, $2 billion will go to research grants distributed through NSF’s regular peer review process. The remainder includes $300 million for the Major Research Instrumentation program, and $200 million to restart the Academic Research Infrastructure program for competitively awarded laboratory construction grants. $100 million will go to the Education and Human Resources Directorate for various programs to support science and math education at the secondary and baccalaureate levels.

Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Funding

You may recall that before the November election, Congress and the Administration were unable to reach agreement on spending levels for Fiscal Year 2009, and so rolled all the pending appropriations bills into one temporary bill (known as a “continuing resolution”) that funded most agencies at the Fiscal Year 2008 level.  So there was unfinished business for this current year, which began on October 1, 2008.

Now, however, Congress and the President have broken the logjam. The House and Senate passed a new omnibus appropriations bill, H.R. 1105, that funds most parts of the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2009. (Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs are not included in the omnibus bill, as they were funded through the regular appropriations process last year.) The President signed the bill into law on March 11. This bill represents the basic funding for federal programs; the stimulus funding is additional.

The omnibus bill provides NIH with $30.32 billion, an increase of $937.5 million (3.2 percent) over the FY 2008 comparable level. This is essentially a flat budget given that the biomedical inflation index is reached but not exceeded. NSF is given $6.5 billion, $425 million (7.0 percent) above 2008.

Fiscal Year 2010—Administration's Proposed Budget

It was a bit late in arriving, but frankly, the President has been very busy.  On February 26, President Obama released some of the details of a $3.6 trillion budget request for Fiscal Year 2010, which will begin on October 1, 2009.  The spending plan includes a $634 billion, 10-year health care reserve fund for reform of the American healthcare system.

Specifics regarding research funding won’t be available until the last week in March or the first week in April.  The House and Senate Budget Committees will develop a budget, which the two houses of Congress must approve, and then the Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate will develop spending legislation based on the budget guidelines.

The APA Science Government Relations Office will provide updates on prospects for research funding as soon as details are available.  Please contact us at any time with questions about science funding and policy at any federal agency.