Unfortunately, stories of the negative impacts of funding cuts on scientific research are nothing new. However, one consequence not often focused on is how these cuts are forcing talented young scientists into other careers.
For example, 29-year-old Tonya Taylor of the University of Minnesota, currently working with one of America's top researchers in degenerative nerve diseases, is considering giving up medical research as a career.
“I’ve applied for at least four [research] grants in the past year and haven’t gotten any,” Taylor told the StarTribune.com. “It’s definitely made me consider leaving academia.”
Funding for biomedical research has stayed at the same level for the past 10 years, and now with cuts due to the federal budget sequester on the horizon, research labs are in real trouble as promising young scientists are forced to consider other lines of work, some of Minnesota's leading scientists said to the StarTribune.com. Over the next two years, the University of Minnesota's $750 million federal research budget could be cut by $50 million.
“This is a perilous moment for the NIH and indeed for the future of biomedical research in this country,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, was quoted by the StarTribune as saying during a hearing on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in May. The NIH is the main funder of biomedical research in the U.S.
Harkin added that approvals for grants are currently at the lowest level they've ever been since the NIH was begun. So far in 2013, 700 fewer research grants have been handed out than last year, he said at the hearing:
“That means 700 fewer opportunities to investigate and possibly find the cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s and diabetes and any number of diseases.”
University of Minnesota molecular biophysicist Jonathan Sachs said academic scientists are now spending more time writing grant proposals than doing important research because competition for increasingly limited funding is so fierce. That doesn't bode well for the next generation of scientists, he added.
“We are facing a massive crisis … we can’t train the next generation of scientists,” Sachs was quoted by the StarTribune as saying at a recent roundtable discussion at the University of Minnesoata. He said the lack of scientists and research in the U.S. “is going to be filled by young scientists in India, young scientists in China, and young scientists throughout the world where the government has the bravery to fund science.”
- With files from the StarTribune.com