Research wins–and pays

“This is a prize for basic research,” said Roger Tsien, referring to his team’s newly minted Nobel Prize–for discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP–during an address at the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) annual meeting (see “Cell Bio emphasizes easy access, low volume,” p. 8). Tsien followed the lively, humor-infused history lesson of fellow laureate Martin Chalfie to address the packed room. The two, who accepted the ASCB’s E.B. Wilson Medal that evening, also represented Osamu Shimomura, the third member of their Nobel triumvirate. The partners had just returned from Stockholm, and were truly the “rock stars” of the event. In their honor, the ASCB dubbed 2008 “The Year of the Glowing Proteins.”

As Tsien pointed out, though, “research is not a solitary event,” as he acknowledged the “hundreds of others” that participated in the work, which began almost as an accident and has enabled so much important discovery.

Another prize for research is the $10 billion apportioned to National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Among U.S. science agencies, NIH won the largest share of economic stimulus funding, according to ScienceInsider, blog of the journal Science (though $3 billion will go to the National Science Foundation).

NIH will receive $8.2 billion for research, $500 million for construction and renovation of NIH buildings, and $1.3 billion for grantees to renovate their facilities and buy shared equipment. In addition, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will transfer more than a third of its $1.1 billion ($400 million) to NIH. We can thank cancer survivor Sen. Arlen Specter (R–PA) for much of that. Having said earlier that NIH had been “starved” in recent years, he added $6.5 billion in an amendment when the stimulus bill reached the Senate.

Anyone who thinks the U.S. cannot afford this spending might take a look at the report by the Society for Neuroscience ( titled “National Institutes of Health: The economic impact of investing in biomedical research.” It asserts the following:

Biomedical research spurs high-wage job growth. In 2007, NIH grants and contracts created and supported more than 350,000 jobs that generated wages in excess of $18 billion in the 50 states. The average wage associated with the jobs created was $52,000, nearly 25 percent higher than the average U.S. wage.

Scientific research builds stronger communities. Between 80% and 90% of NIH’s $29 billion annual budget funds research in local U.S. communities–universities, medical research centers, hospitals, and independent research institutes in every state.

NIH funding enhances states’ economic health. Every dollar of NIH funding generated more than twice as much in state economic output: an overall investment of $22.846 billion from NIH generated a total of $50.537 billion in new state business in the form of increased output of goods and services.

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Barbara Goode
Editor in Chief

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