As the United State’s quickly cuts investment in NASA and other space research programs, India and China are dedicating significant investment into their national space programs. India has successfully launched a rocket to Mars, and China’s Moon landing launch is set for next month. America’s technological leadership in the world is slipping away quickly in more and more fields of technology, with space travel as a particularly symbolic and visible representation of scientific achievement. Countries like India and China were once assumed consumers of scientific discovery and producers of generic or lower cost alternatives, are now taking advantange of the U.S. lapse in scientific investment and gaining ground as world leaders in technology.
If our federal investment in science does not reverse course from it’s current plummeting trend, America will lose it’s leadership in even more technical fields in the very near future.
China mission’s moon landing site? It could be ‘Bay of Rainbows’
Leonard David, Space.com
China is making major headway in its mission to land a rover on the moon — a big step forward in the nation’s ambitious lunar exploration plans.
At China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center, the moon-bound Chang’e 3 spacecraft is undergoing its final tests ahead of a planned launch in early December. Meanwhile, a Long March 3B carrier rocket, reportedly modified with new technologies and improved reliability, was to reach the launch center via train from Beijing on Friday.
The touchdown target for the Chang’e 3 mission — a lander and a lunar rover — is thought to be Sinus Iridum, known as the Bay of Rainbows, a plain of basaltic lava on the moon, according to reports by China media outlets. An earlier Chinese lunar orbiter, Chang’e 2, eyed the moon-landing zone in 2010, showing the site’s flat topography and other interesting features. [Moon Photos by China’s Chang’e 2 Lunar Orbiter (Gallery)]
As for the rover’s name, that is to be decided next month, based on nearly 190,000 entries on two China-based websites. According to the Beijing Times, “Yutu” (“jade hare” in Chinese) leads the list, while “Tansuo” (“explore”) and “Lanyue” (“catch moon”), are the second and third choices, respectively.
Launch day China space watcher Bob Christy of the informative website Zarya.info told Space.com that his best estimate for a China lunar launch is Dec. 1. “It could be a day or so later, but is unlikely to be earlier,” he said.
Christy has taken a look at the launch windows.
“For Dec. 1, the optimum launch time is around 14:00 to 15:00 UTC (9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. EST),” he said. “It allows Chang’e to approach the moon from the north to give a better view of the transfer orbit from China than would the alternative — around 22:00 UTC (5:00 p.m. EST) for an approach from the south.”
Dr. Sally Rockey, Deputy Director of Extramural Research for the NIH and Dr. Francis Collins, Directors of the NIH, published an article this week titled, “One Nation In Support of Biomedical Research,” detailing the multitude of problems caused by the last decades cuts to basic science research for our national research institutions and our economy and quality of life in the global marketplace. You can read the full article on the NIH Director’s blog here.
Posted on by Dr. Sally Rockey and Dr. Francis Collins
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Until recently, we’d never have dreamed of mentioning the famous opening line of Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities in the context of U.S. biomedical research. But now those words ring all too true.
The “best of times” reflects the amazing technological advances and unprecedented scientific opportunities that exist right now. We’ve never had a better chance to make rapid progress in preventing, diagnosing, and curing human disease. But the “worst of times” is the other reality: NIH’s ability to support vital research at more than 2,500 universities and organizations across the nation is reeling from a decline in funding that threatens our health, our economy, and our standing as the world leader in biomedical innovation.
After 10 years of essentially flat budgets eroded by the effects of inflation, and now precipitously worsened by the impact of sequestration (an automatic, across-the-board 5.5% cut in NIH support), NIH’s purchasing power has been cut by almost 25% compared to a decade ago.
Ironically, the United States is slashing its R&D spending at a time when other nations are significantly boosting theirs—as you can see in the bar graph featured in this post. It appears that global competitors have read our playbook, noted how U.S. biomedical innovation has helped to fuel our economic growth over the past 60 years and are now ramping up their efforts to emulate our success. Or, if we may quote Dickens again, “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”
Unfortunately, the drama that NIH-supported science faces today is not a Dickens novel. It’s very real. The progressively worsening budget situation has the potential to inflict profound, long-term damage to U.S. scientific momentum and morale.
Imagine yourself as a visionary young scientist at one of our nation’s research universities. You have many exciting ideas. You write up the most promising and send the grant application to NIH in hopes of being supported. But you find it increasingly difficult to remain optimistic or to see a future in this field when you look at the steep odds of being funded. Currently, a grant application has a less than one chance in six of being successful—a troubling trend that’s detailed in the line graph below.
Because of sequester, NIH will be funding 650 fewer research grants than it did last fiscal year. Nearly a quarter of those unfunded applications have come from scientists who’d already made substantial progress in earlier grant awards and were hoping to renew them. Peer reviewers judged their research in the top 17% of all applications received, but they will now have to stop ongoing research projects—meaning, in this double tragedy, we will lose both previous and future research investments.
If sequestration continues for a full 10 years, the outlook for the U.S. biomedical research enterprise turns downright grim. NIH will lose a staggering $19 billion, and, with it, our nation will lose an untold amount of precious time in its race against Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, arthritis, asthma, autism, depression, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, influenza, and so many other causes of pain and suffering.
While the full impact of sequestration on biomedical research won’t be felt until next year or the following, reports are already starting to come in from the front lines. A new nationwide survey by the American Society for Clinical Oncology found that three out of four cancer researchers said the current federal funding situation is negatively affecting their ability to conduct research. The survey reports 28% of the cancer researchers have decided to participate in fewer federally-funded clinical trials; 27% have postponed the launch of a clinical trial; and 23% have had to limit patient enrollment on a clinical trial. These are very sobering statistics—especially for cancer patients and their loved ones.
Perhaps the most serious and long-lasting impact of sequestration on U.S. science is the one that is most difficult to measure. We fear this budget uncertainty is going to hit young researchers the hardest because a lack of funding leads to career uncertainty and could drive many of them out of the country or even out of science completely. This is our nation’s priceless pool of innovative talent—the source of the high-risk, high-reward research that may lead us to the next Nobel Prize or next big breakthrough in medical care. If our current budget battles cost the United States an entire generation of scientists, we will have compromised our nation’s global standing in biomedical research and slowed the improvement of health for all Americans.
This is a defining moment for the United States. As a nation, history will judge us by how we set priorities. Should not NIH-funded research aimed at alleviating suffering and advancing human health rank very high on that priority list? We hope that when everything is said and done, all of us can emerge telling the Tale of One Nation—a nation united in support of the value of biomedical research.
The nationwide benefits of investment in basic research are published widely in academic economic literature as well as in publications from government and non-government entities from both sides of the aisle. However, while the nationwide data is highly compelling, it often isn’t presented in a format thats digestable or tangible enough to inspire Americans to change their voting behavior.
As former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” This is why First In Science’s campaign strategy is based around local messages that speak to the local realities of voter communities. The effects of federal investment in basic research on communities surrounding research institutions is incredibly profound and widespread, and national data reports can’t truly capture the enormity of these benefits for individuals and communities.
We were delighted to find an Op-Ed written by George Ward, Executive Director of the Coldstream Research Campus at the University of Kentucky, titled “Federal grants crucial in funding innovations that strengthen Ky.” The article describes the vast effect federal investment in basic research has specifically on the city of Lexington, Kentucky. You may read the full article at Kentucky.com here.
Federal grants crucial in funding innovations that strengthen Ky.
By George Ward
In his recent op-ed, Eli Capilouto, president of the University of Kentucky, gave a high-level explanation of the need for continued federal research funding and the impact that this funding has on research institutions and the communities where they reside.
In order for America to continue to play a leading role in the development of useful technologies and new products that make our lives better, the “innovation deficit” created by declining federal research funding and sequestration must be addressed.
In my position as executive director of the Coldstream Research Campus and working with Central Kentucky’s technology-based economic development professionals, I see firsthand on a daily basis how the investment in research has changed Lexington’s business mix, tax base and our community.
Whether UK recruits another world-class scientist (maybe with a spouse or significant other with similar advanced degree credentials) or an entrepreneurial faculty member starts a company and hires young, well-educated, well-paid employees, Lexington benefits from the “brain gain.” Lexington also benefits as these folks volunteer for civic boards or take advantage of the many social and cultural opportunities in our city.
Of the 66 total businesses and organizations at Coldstream, more than half are in life sciences, engineering or animal health. There are an additional 19 companies growing in UK’s high-tech business incubator, the Advanced Science and Technology Commercialization Center, also known as ASTeCC, creating a pipeline of companies with the opportunity to create innovative new products and grow well-paying jobs.
In all, ASTeCC has produced 43 companies that have graduated from the incubator facility and were either purchased by larger companies, or continue to grow, many in the Lexington area.
The typical evolution of these high-tech companies starts with millions of federal research dollars on basic research to advance science in a particular area. As an idea develops, innovative faculty members patent their ideas and then license them to a company, some started by entrepreneurial faculty members those who have received doctorates. Many of these companies are then funded by federal small business innovation research grants. Using these grants, companies develop working prototypes of new products and then go on to seek private investment to commercialize their ideas.
Since March 2007, the federal government has awarded 33 small businesses in Fayette County over $28 million from this program with an additional $18 million from a Kentucky matching program. Twelve of these companies were attracted to Central Kentucky from out of state to qualify for state matching grants and to be close to UK researchers and resources.
Much of this money is then spent in our community on salaries, building rents and other operating expenses. These salaries then turn over in our community at retail stores, restaurants, housing, entertainment or arts venues, etc.
The May 2013 McKinsey Global Institute report, “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy,” said technologies including advanced robotics, next-generation genomics, 3-D printing, energy storage and advanced materials are among the top 12 technologies that have the greatest economic potential in the next 12 years.
New products being developed in Central Kentucky include treatments for cancer, methods of drug delivery, business solutions using 3-D imaging, longer-life and less expensive batteries for mobile devices and electric vehicles, cost-effective manufacturing of prototype products, advanced materials including lighter weight metals used in automobile and aerospace manufacturing, and many others.
All this and more is happening every day at UK, the Coldstream Research Campus, ASTeCC and other areas of our city. It all started with basic research investment by the federal government. It has led to brain gain, innovative new products and a growing, well-educated community. The need to fund innovation is very apparent in Lexington and it is important that Congress helps prevent an innovation deficit from occurring.
With appropriate funding, UK researchers and private companies founded by entrepreneurial faculty will create new technologies that will lead to a more sustainable way of life, well-paying jobs and economic prosperity for our community and country.
The greatest breakthroughs in basic research are sometimes the least expected. When investigation has the purpose of expanding our understanding of the world rather than creating a product, it leaves the potential for discoveries that scientists could never have predicted before beginning their research.
Cornell researchers studying the properties of graphene noticed some “muck” on their slide. When they curiously inspected it under an electron microscope, it turned out to be a shard of glass only two atoms thick, caused by an air leak malfunction in their equipment. They were able to photograph the glass with the electron microscope creating the first ever images of the atomic arrangement of glass. The pictures have lead to major breakthroughs in our understanding of the properties of glass, which behaves with properties of both a liquid and a solid. The discovery may have major potential to revolutionize nanotechnology and transistors. David Mueller, Professor of Applied and Engineering Physics, said in a statement, “This is the work that, when I look back at my career, I will be most proud of.” Read more of the article on NBC Science News here.
Anthony Pawson, a Canadian cell biologist whose pathbreaking insights about how cells communicate with one another resolved one of science’s oldest mysteries and helped spur the development of a class of drugs that target cancer, diabetes and other diseases, died on Aug. 7 in Toronto. He was 60.
Family members and colleagues declined to disclose the cause.
In his 1990 breakthrough, Dr. Pawson and his research team identified the specific protein interactions involved in cell signaling, the process by which cells tell one another what to do, when to do it and when to stop.
Scientists had long known that cells communicated, but no one knew the exact cellular mechanism involved until Dr. Pawson’s research pinpointed it: a protein structure on the surface of every cell membrane. The structure, which he called the SH2 domain, serves as a landing pad for signaling proteins, which in turn set off a molecular chain reaction carrying information to the cell’s nucleus.
SH2 domain proved to be the linchpin of the cell communications system, and its discovery basically confirmed Dr. Pawson’s initial theory, that “when cells fail to communicate properly, disease happens,” as he defined it in an interview.
Anthony Hunter, a professor of molecular and cell biology at the Salk Institute Cancer Center in San Diego, called the identification of the SH2 domain an “enormously influential idea” that introduced scientists to a fundamentally new principle about how cells work.
“It was a seminal finding,” said Dr. Hunter, who collaborated with Dr. Pawson on several papers about cell communication.
Dr. Pawson’s research opened a new field of study into the causes and effects of breakdowns in cellular communication. And studies based wholly or in part on his discoveries have produced new treatments for cancer, autoimmune diseases, diabetes and heart ailments, essentially by blocking or unraveling intercellular miscues.
Perhaps the best-known of these is Gleevec, a cancer drug that blocks the abnormal cell signal that causes a rare form of blood cancer called chronic myelogenous leukemia.
Dr. Pawson, who was frequently nominated and widely considered to be a shortlisted candidate for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, received many international awards for his work, including the 2008 Kyoto Prize in basic sciences and the Wolf Prize in Medicine in 2005. British-born, he was named to the Order of the Companions of Honour in 2007 by Queen Elizabeth II.
Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee
Committee on Appropriations
March 13, 2013
Rayburn Office Building
The witnesses at today’s hearing will all tell you about the importance of federal funding for basic biomedical research to cure a litany of diseases which impact Americans everyday and they’re absolutely correct. Without that basic research, treatments for these diseases will remain unattainable and millions of Americans will continue to suffer. It is through this basic research, which cannot be profitably funded by the private sector, that our biomedical knowledge is advanced. And with that increased knowledge, American companies can craft profitable solutions to the biomedical problems that continue to plague us.
Our life expectancy and the quality of our lives have increased dramatically as a result of federally funded biomedical research. In just a few short years, our biomedical knowledge has expanded exponentially which has led to the creation of new drugs and new therapeutic treatments that have saved the lives of countless Americans and people throughout the world. Diseases such as polio and tuberculosis which once ravaged this nation are all but eliminated. And the survival rate for some cancers has increased dramatically. Some childhood diseases that once proved fatal are now a rarity.
We all know that health care costs have risen dramatically over the past two decades. On average, Americans spend $8,000 a year on health care. But how much more would we need to spend without the benefits derived from America’s investment in basic biomedical research? The costs saved every time an HIV/AIDS patient is routinely treated outside of the hospital or a doctor can diagnose a patient with a simple scan instead of days of expensive inpatient hospital tests dramatically reduce the cost of health care. These now commonplace advances and so many more are a direct result of America’s investment in basic research.
America’s investment in basic biomedical research has paid off handsomely in terms of lives saved and health care costs reduced, but there is still much to be learned, many more diseases to conquer. Chronic diseases are an ever-increasing burden on America’s health care system. To meet that increased burden, we need answers and for that we need to invest in research.
But for all of the incredibly valid arguments that can be made about lives to be saved and improved, there is more to the story. Every dollar spent on basic research improves the economy. America’s investment in basic research during the 20th Century was the driving force that created the greatest economy that world has ever known. Over 70% of American jobs today owe their existence in some part to America’s past investment in basic scientific research. Without the wise investment of previous generations, the American economy would not lead the world today.
But that was yesterday. Today, shrinking resources threaten America’s current and future investment just when we need it the most. China’s investment in biomedical research has risen a dramatic 500% over the last decade. America’s investment during that time hasn’t kept pace with inflation. Today, American spending on Research & Development as a percentage of GDP which once led the world ranks a lowly 10th. With the cuts caused by sequestration factored in, America’s ranking may be even lower. Without continued investment in basic research, America won’t produce the jobs needed to fuel tomorrow’s economy. Those jobs will be produced on distant shores.
Today, we are watching as some of our nation’s best scientists, American scientists educated in American universities, are forced to leave the U.S. to work in foreign countries, countries like China, India, South Korea, Singapore and Saudi Arabia who value the benefits that basic research produces and are funding it. We are talking about more than a “brain drain,” we are watching as the fuel for our economic engine is siphoned off and moved off shore.
President Obama said in his State of the Union speech last month that for every dollar spent on mapping the human genome, the economy benefitted to the tune of $140. I believe he was understating the value of basic research. NIH funded basic research generates an economic return of $2.5 trillion each year. We need to expand our investment in basic biomedical research because of its promise of a better quality of life, yes, but equally so we need to expand our investment for the sake of our own economy.
We all recognize that America has a budget problem. No one can argue that our deficit must be reduced. But we will never eliminate the deficit solely through an increase in taxes. Any such attempt would decimate the economy and doom us to failure. And we will never eliminate the deficit solely through cuts in discretionary spending. The deficit is too large and, again, such an action would decimate the economy. The answer lies in economic growth.
At the end of the last century, a bi-partisan approach succeeded in balancing the budget. But it wasn’t solely through increased taxes or reduced spending. The largest single factor that allowed for the balanced budget was an increase in federal revenues due solely to the then booming economy. And that is the solution for us today.
The only way we will be able to eliminate the deficit is by growing the economy. And to do that, we need to invest in basic research to produce the knowledge that will become the foundation for future American businesses. If America increases its investment in basic research we can expect to see a surge in American economic activity that will result not only in prosperity for many Americans currently struggling, but also for our government. This surge holds the promise of reducing the need for government expenditures while at the same time increasing revenues, the key to eliminating future deficit spending.
In short, we need to reverse the cuts made to the NIH budget that resulted from last week’s sequestration and we need to double our nation’s spending on basic research as a percentage of GDP over the next decade. We can’t afford to allow other nations to pick up our mantle of progress and watch helplessly as our own economy, an economy that leads the world, stagnates.
We need to lead the world but it’s hard to lead when you’re falling behind.
NASA has just announced an incredible basic research breakthrough in understanding solar wind energy.
NASA, March 8, 2013: Using data from an aging NASA spacecraft, researchers have found signs of an energy source in the solar wind that has caught the attention of fusion researchers. NASA will be able to test the theory later this decade when it sends a new probe into the sun for a closer look.
The discovery was made by a group of astronomers trying to solve a decades-old mystery: What heats and accelerates the solar wind?
The solar wind is a hot and fast flow of magnetized gas that streams away from the sun’s upper atmosphere. It is made of hydrogen and helium ions with a sprinkling of heavier elements. Researchers liken it to the steam from a pot of water boiling on a stove; the sun is literally boiling itself away.
“But,” says Adam Szabo of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, “solar wind does something that steam in your kitchen never does. As steam rises from a pot, it slows and cools. As solar wind leaves the sun, it accelerates, tripling in speed as it passes through the corona. Furthermore, something inside the solar wind continues to add heat even as it blows into the cold of space.”
Finding that “something” has been a goal of researchers for decades. In the 1970s and 80s, observations by two German/US Helios spacecraft set the stage for early theories, which usually included some mixture of plasma instabilities, magnetohydrodynamic waves, and turbulent heating. Narrowing down the possibilities was a challenge. The answer, it turns out, has been hiding in a dataset from one of NASA’s oldest active spacecraft, a solar probe named Wind.
Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) — Michael Milken, chairman and co-founder of Knowledge Universe LLC, accompanied by Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, talks about the effect of medical research and innovation on global economic growth. Milken speaks with Erik Schatzker from the FasterCures Partnering for Cures conference in New York on Bloomberg Television’s “Money Moves.” Bloomberg’s Deirdre Bolton also speaks. (Source: Bloomberg)
And now that Mr. Obama has been re-elected, “I’m elated,” said Dr. Chalfie, a professor of biological sciences at Columbia who shared the Nobel Prizein Chemistry in 2008. “I was particularly happy that in his victory speech, he again emphasized the importance of science and education.”
But the particulars of Mr. Obama’s science goals for his second term are not known. Neither he nor his opponent, Mitt Romney, spoke much about the topic during the campaign, but given Mr. Romney’s promise of cutting taxes, the presumption was that he would have proposed deep cuts in science spending.
“All the indications are that the discretionary budget would have been a prime cut of beef on the chopping block,” said Michael S. Lubell, a physics professor at City College and director of public affairs at the American Physical Society.
Indeed, not much may change in science policy in Mr. Obama’s second term, and for many scientists like Dr. Chalfie, that is a good thing.
The expectation is that Mr. Obama will continue pushing for many of the same priorities as he did during his first term, like robust financing of basic research, especially in energy. “I would expect those priorities to continue,” said Matthew Hourihan, director of the research and development budget and policy program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Mr. Hourihan said Mr. Obama’s support for science and technology research “has been fairly strong,” although he was not able to fulfill campaign promises from 2008 to double research financing at many agencies.
As with other issues in Washington, it is not clear whether Mr. Obama will be able to act on more of his priorities. The balance of power and cast of characters have not changed: Democrats control the Senate, the Republicans still hold the House.
“For the most part, we’re looking at the same power dynamics,” Mr. Hourihan said.
The greatest worry is that the so-called “fiscal cliff” will be reached at the end of the year, with the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush expiring and automatic, across-the-board budget cuts taking effect. Federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health, NASA and the National Science Foundation would all see their budgets drop by about 8 percent.
That would be catastrophic for researchers, Dr. Lubell said. The science foundation issues three-year research grants, so an 8 percent budget cut could translate to a drop in new grants by one-fourth. Facilities at national laboratories used by scientists would also likely be cut sharply.
On the plus side, without having to worry about re-election, Mr. Obama could perhaps undertake new initiatives.
David Baltimore, a biology professor and former president of the California Institute of Technology — and another Nobel laureate who signed the Obama endorsement — said he hoped that the president in his second term would “have the political space to take onclimate change.”
Dr. Lubell agreed. “If Romney had been elected, there is no question climate change would have been put on the back burner,” he said. “Obama will, I think, begin to address some of these things.”
NASA officials have also been pushing for a small space station that would hover over the far side of the Moon, the first human mission to venture beyond low-Earth orbit since the last of the moon landings four decades ago. It is not known what White House officials think of that idea.
Fort Mills Times, Published February 7th, 2013 11:25 am RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. –
Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) today applauded Feb. 6 testimony by the semiconductor industry to Congress supporting the funding of basic scientific research, not only for the benefit of the industry, but also for the advancement and economic development of society.
SRC President Larry Sumney states that SRC cannot emphasize enough the critical role university research plays in the future of technology and the nation’s economy in general. The world-class U.S. university system built through decades of steady government support serves as a foundation for public-private partnerships such as SRC.
“The messages communicated to Congress are exactly the reason SRC was created,” said Sumney. “Collaboration among industry, academia and government accelerates knowledge advancements, lowers risk and enables growth and innovation to continue for the benefit of industry and society as a whole. It represents a win-win-win.”
However, Sumney explains that collaboration requires these three sectors — industry, academia and government — to work in unison; take any one out of the equation, and the likelihood for success significantly diminishes. In order for consortia such as SRC to survive, government involvement is more important than ever. Moreover, basic research has a dramatically increased chance for success and return-on-investment when managed as part of a collaborative public-private program, according to SRC.
“Today’s technology-based economy critically depends on a robust university research enterprise — producing fundamental scientific advances and, just as importantly, well-educated scientists and engineers who can compete in a global economic playing field,” said Sumney. “What’s not easy is finding the resources, the brightest minds and the funds, to fuel that research, especially in challenging economic periods.
“Funding further research for future innovation is a delicate balancing act, to say the least. For more than 30 years, SRC-funded research has involved students, faculty and industry experts working together. In these challenging economic times, this model of collaboration needs to be extended.”
*The quotations on this page are public statements regarding federal funding for basic research made by individuals, and are not meant to imply an endorsement of First In Science PAC. *First In Science PAC is an independent-expenditure-only political action committee. First In Science PAC does not make contributions to federal candidates, political party committees or to PACs that contribute to candidates and political party committees. Federal ID # C00541466.