NIH Science Education Programs at Risk

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Proposed Reorganization of STEM Programs Threatens Funding for Health and Biomedical Education

Click HERE for the photobook of programs that will be impacted by the proposed reorganization.

On April 10, 2013, the White House submitted a FY14 budget request to Congress that radically reorganizes federally-funded Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education (STEM) programs across multiple agencies, particularly the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NASA.  In the proposal, 266 programs across 13 agencies would be consolidated into 122 programs. The budget proposal identifies the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, and the Smithsonian as the primary agencies to organize and oversee future federally-funded STEM education efforts.

The following day, NIH held a conference call for all NIH grantees with funding for K-12 and informal science and health education projects. Dr. Larry Tabak, principal deputy director at NIH, announced that NIH is “pausing” funding for these programs. No new grants will be awarded. Non-competing renewals will be funded in FY 2013, but funding after that is uncertain. While increased coordination of STEM education across federal agencies is a laudable goal, several consequences of the proposed changes have profound implications for health and biomedical education in the US.  In particular, the elimination of the Office of Science Education at the National Institutes of Health and the Science Education Partnership Award  (SEPA) and similar science education programs at individual NIH institutes would threaten our national competitiveness, security, public health, and broader understanding of, and support for, science.

The NIH Office of Science Education (OSE) is scheduled to close at the end of September, 2013.  The OSE has had a tremendous impact on health science education through its many programs.  For example, OSE staff have distributed 450,000 Curriculum Supplements to approximately 100,000 educators across the U.S.  Their website receives over one million hits/year. If you are interested in receiving hard copies of their popular Curriculum Supplement series, please contact them at oseATscience.education.nih.gov.

The journal Science, in Wild Cards Remain After Proposed Reshuffle of STEM Education (April 19, 2013; vol 340, p. 258-259), notes the following:

Many science educators say that the proposed cuts would scrap effective programs just as the country needs to be doing more.  ‘”The SEPA program is the face of the NIH to the country,” says a grantee on one of the programs facing the chopping block. “It’s a vehicle for telling the public how NIH is translating science into practice,” says the grantee, who requested anonymity (p. 258).

The Co-STEM Committee at the Office of Science and Technology Policy is scheduled to release a strategic plan in mid-May with additional information.

The following link provides the complete list of programs under consideration to be paused/consolidated/eliminated:

Proposed STEM Education Reorganization Contained in the President’s FY14 Budget Request
Note especially the following list relative to health and biomedical education:

  • 30 Clinical Research Training Program HHS
  • 31 Curriculum Supplement Series HHS
  • 32 NIAID Science Education Awards HHS
  • 33 NINDS Diversity Research Education Grants in Neuroscience HHS
  • 34 NLM Institutional Grants for Research Training in Biomedical Informatics HHS
  • 35 OD Science Education Partnership Award HHS (SEPA)
  • 36 Office of Science Education K-12 Program HHS (NIH Office of Science Education)
  • 37 Public Health Traineeship HHS
  • 38 Science Education Drug Abuse Partnership Award HHS
  • 39 Short Term Educational Experiences for Research (STEER) in the Environmental health Sciences for Undergraduates and High School Students HHS

The following are points raised by the SEPA community in response to this development:

The Need for Health and Biomedical Science Education Programs Aimed at Grades K–12 and the Broader Public at the NIH

Health and biomedical sciences for grades K-12 are critical components of STEM education that help to ensure the nation’s capability to prevent disease and improve health. The proposed 2014 STEM education consolidation plan, however, eliminates K-12 and informal health and biomedical science education from its traditional place in the portfolio of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and, by default, from the national STEM education agenda. No other federal agency supports programs comparable to those that would be lost.

More than 65 NIH-funded, K-12 health and biomedical science education projects currently operate in 40 states. These include “in-person” programs for more than 82,500 K-12 students and 5,750 K-12 teachers each year, and online programs that reach more than 20 million K-12 students and educators annually. NIH-funded exhibitions at some of the nation’s largest museums and science centers reach millions more students, teachers and families. With emphasis on engaging underserved populations, K-12 educational initiatives supported by NIH create thoroughly evaluated, science-rich interactive exhibits, curriculum materials, teacher professional development programs, student and teacher research experiences, and out-of-school learning opportunities. Ongoing NIH-funded K-12 educational programs benefit the nation in the following ways.

  • Improve preparation for, and access to careers in medicine, healthcare, biotechnology and biomedical research, with a focus on students from under-represented groups.Address health disparities by increasing access to college and health professions careers for under-served students, who are more likely than their peers to practice in medically underserved areas.
  • Build public understanding and support of biomedical research and clinical trials through educational programs that emphasize the relationship between NIH discoveries and their translation into positive health outcomes.
  • Encourage and facilitate involvement of biomedical research scientists in K-12 STEM education, and engage the resources of colleges, universities, medical schools and science museums in supporting K-12 STEM education.
  • Promote health literacy and better decision-making to address preventable health problems among America’s youth, reduce the burdens of chronic illnesses and infectious diseases, and enable consumers to make sense of genetic and other newly available health information.
  • Increase students’ interest in STEM topics through personally relevant examples from health and biomedicine that are aligned with recommendations of the Next Generation Science Standards.
For more than two decades, NIH has invested in the development of human capital and a unique infrastructure that is meeting our nation’s K-12 health and biomedical science education needs. These investments have produced significant, demonstrable outcomes that would not have been possible otherwise. Current K-12 programs sponsored by NIH, including the Office of Science Education, employ rigorous, results-oriented and cost-effective approaches to tackle major national issues, as listed below.
  • Jobs: Healthcare and biomedical science are crucial elements of the economy. The US Department of Commerce estimates that healthcare accounts for $1.75 trillion in revenues and employs more than 14 million people (nine percent of the US workforce).
  • Provider Shortages: The nation faces an acute shortage of healthcare workers in all areas, and the problem is expected to grow. The American Association of Medical Colleges projects that there will be a shortage of more than 90,000 physicians—including 45,000 primary care physicians—by the end of the decade. About 55 million people already lack access to a physician.
  • Wellness and Disease Prevention: According to the Milken Institute, more than half of all Americans suffer from one or more chronic diseases, many of which are preventable. Healthcare spending is projected to reach almost 20% of the US gross domestic product by 2021. Racial and ethnic minorities suffer disproportionately from diseases such as cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS, but participate less frequently in programs that could help to reduce disparities.

Without K-12 health and biomedical science education initiatives, our nation will be unable to solve many of its most pressing workforce, economic and healthcare problems.

Download points above as a PDF: NIH-K12
Sources: Fixing the Doctor Shortage (AAMC) – Health Economic Fact Sheet – The Health and Medical Technology Industry in the United States  – Next Generation Science Standards – Milken Institute Center for Health Economics

Fig. 1. Distribution of 2012 Science Education Partnership Awards by State.
Nearly every state will be impacted by these changes.

SEPA MAP

Taking action:

Additional Resources
Please contact us at jchowningATnwabr.org with suggestions and corrections

Falling Off the “Fiscal Cliff”: As Funding Cuts Loom, Americans Are Willing to Pay for Biomedical Research

As pundits project and partisans dig in on Capitol Hill, Americans remain committed to investing in biomedical research, and are even willing to spend more of their tax dollars to advance science in their communities. According to a new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America:

  • More than 50% say they would be willing to pay $1 more per week if the dollars would go to medical research – even in these tough fiscal times.
  • More than three-quarters (78%) say that it is important that the U.S. work to improve health globally through research and innovation.
  • Nearly 70% believe that the federal government should increase support for programs and policies that would increase the number of young Americans who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • 68% say it’s important that the federal research and development tax credit is made permanent.

How might falling off the “fiscal cliff” affect biomedical research in Washington State? The biomedical research sector provides thousands of jobs in Washington: pharmaceutical (2,490); medical device (7,760); research, testing, and laboratories (15,088); and overall private sector (2,429,884).  Further reduction in NIH and NSF funding to biomedical research could affect this sector and reduce employment opportunities nation-wide, forcing job-seekers to relocate or potentially discourage students from pursuing scientific careers.

Current NIH funding has designated Seattle as the hub for comparative-effectiveness research in cancer. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Group Health Research Institute, and the University of Washington School of Public Health are leading projects in cancer genomics, cancer diagnostics, breast imaging, and cancer screening. Results from these projects will provide vital information in diagnosis, treating, and communicating information about cancer to medical professionals, patients and their families, and health insurance companies. The threatened reduction in funding could impact these critical programs and may delay evaluations of testing and treatments for cancer patients. Without continued biomedical research funding in Washington—and across the U.S.—we compromise our ability to evaluate cancer diagnostic tools, screening tests, treatments, and a balanced assessment of cost and benefit.

Time is running out on Capitol Hill. While it’s absolutely necessary to reduce the deficit, more spending cuts that hinder medical progress are harmful to public health, the economy, and global innovation. The Northwest is a national leader in biomedical research and innovation, and our representatives can still save thousands of jobs, and $70 million in grant funding in Washington alone. Reach out to our lawmakers today—before they adjourn for the holiday—and count yourself among the majority of Americans who take action to preserve and advance biomedical research funding.

NWABR Urges Congress to Preserve Biomedical Research Funding

Sequestration could cost WA at least $70 million in grant funding

Now that the election is finally over, it’s easy to be distracted from the ongoing work of the current congress, and the looming threat that budget sequestration poses to the biomedical research industry. The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires that across-the-board cuts to be applied to a large portion of the federal budget on January 2, 2013, unless Congress reverses it. For domestic programs, around $39 billion in cuts would be applied to “discretionary” programs, which include the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).  According to a United for Medical Research report, if NIH funding is cut by 7.8% as part of budget sequestration, the state of Washington will be hit especially hard, with a loss of 1,184 jobs and $72.2 million in grants supported by this funding. And that is just the beginning.

This week, members of Research!America, a nonprofit advocacy alliance, are headed to Capitol Hill to make the case that sequestration is harmful not just for biomedical research, but also for our economy. As part of their Save Research campaign, NWABR was proud to sign a letter urging congressional leaders to reject any deficit reduction proposals that would cut research funding or hinder incentives that support biomedical innovation.

The full letter is posted below. Please take a moment to reach out to your congressional delegation and ask them to preserve funding that will help combat disease and spur private sector innovation in the Northwest and beyond.

Dear Mr. Reid, Mr. McConnell, Mr. Boehner, and Ms. Pelosi:

As advocates for biomedical and health research, we are writing to urge you to refrain from deploying deficit reduction strategies, like sequestration, that would slow medical progress.

Our nation leads the world in biomedical and health research, a function of public sector support and private sector ingenuity. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is unrivaled in spurring the basic discovery that lays the path for private sector innovation. Peer-reviewed NIH funding reaches all 50 states and congressional districts, spurring discovery at universities, hospitals, small businesses, and independent research institutes. In fact, NIH-supported research has:

  • Supported nearly 500,000 jobs in 2011 in every state
  • Generated $62 billion in economic activity in 2011
  • Helped increase life expectancy from 47 years in 1900 to 78 years in 2009

But this is not just about NIH.  The National Science Foundation (NSF), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) all provide a positive return on investment to our nation, protecting American lives and promoting American prosperity.

  • NSF’s grant portfolio is designed to identify and pursue the best scientific opportunities across the spectrum  of scientific disciplines, including biomedical research.
  • FDA is a key conduit between medical discovery and medical progress, laying the path for safe and effective  medical products to reach the marketplace.
  • CDC conducts and supports the public health research needed to contain disease outbreaks, promote wellness, and in other ways provide basic supports for a safe and healthy society; and
  • AHRQ combats entrenched and insidious problems in our nation’s health care system – like preventable medical errors and needless administrative red tape — that take lives and inflate the cost of taxpayer funded health programs and private insurance alike.

Disinvesting from biomedical and health research – and the infrastructure and expertise needed to conduct it – would contravene the goal of deficit reduction. This research is one of the fundamental underpinnings of our economy, a reality well understood by other nations, which are ramping up their investment and building out their research infrastructure.  Research is a catalyst that creates businesses large and small, and generates jobs in research, manufacturing, distribution, exports, health care and a host of other sectors. Those businesses and jobs supply federal revenue needed to reduce the deficit.

In addition, research can help stem runaway federal healthcare spending, which is driving our deficit. While new treatments may require additional cost at the outset, research has shown the offsetting effects of reduced hospitalizations, fewer visits to providers, reduced home care, a reduction in the Social Security disability roles, and improved productivity.  As you well know, the cost of treating diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases are exploding. There is no high-impact alternative to research as a means of addressing this crisis.

When it comes to the fiscal health of our nation, biomedical and health research are part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Whether it is appropriations policy or entitlement and tax reform, we urge you to discard any proposal that cuts funding or mutes incentives for public- and private-sector supported medical innovation.   Compassion and pragmatism intersect in the decision to do so.

Thank you for your consideration.

Student Research Fellows East Day 8!

From heath care policy to commercialization to P4 medicine–it was a full day!

Some student quotes:

“I didn’t know how hard it is to start your own business, or patent your inventions. It costs a lot. It was really nice to know that we have foundations to help people get started.”

“If you push yourself to find out, you can find a whole realm of possibilities through the science field.”

“I really enjoyed having Dr. Oliver come talk to us about P4 medicine, and “the cloud” which you can have your medical information looked at by others doctors that you go see.”

View more information on the Summer Student Research Fellows program at NWABR.

This program was supported by a Collaborations to Understand Research and Ethics (CURE), 1R25RR0251131, a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Center for Research Resources or the National Institutes of Health.

Collaborations to Understand Research and Ethics, a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health

Northwest Association for Biomedical Research -- logo

Student Research Fellows East Day 7!

Today we were hosted by the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist program at Sacred Heart Hospital, then toured PAML, a diagnostics lab.

Some student quotes:

“Today we learned about how there is a lot to learn when putting someone to sleep for surgery. You have to measure your oxygen levels and blood pressure. It was very interesting especially when we made students’ muscles twitch without them doing it.”

“Today I learned how scientists test for STDs and that machines now do most of the testing.”

“There is more to nursing than meets the eye!”

 

View more information on the Summer Student Research Fellows program at NWABR.

This program was supported by a Collaborations to Understand Research and Ethics (CURE), 1R25RR0251131, a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Center for Research Resources or the National Institutes of Health.

Collaborations to Understand Research and Ethics, a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health

Northwest Association for Biomedical Research -- logo

We are hoping that our students…

We are hoping that our students will come away with a better understanding of how drugs and treatments are developed, an appreciation of the value of research for health, and with opportunity to learn about the broad range of career possibilities in biomedical research-related fields. It is very important to us that our students learn how ethics intersects with biomedical research, especially in how research is conducted. They learn about ethical guidelines for research and how those guidelines have been developed. By meeting and interacting with individuals who care for animals needed for research, or who conduct clinical trials of new vaccines, they not only put a human face on research, but they perhaps take one step closer to imagining themselves conducting research.

— Jeanne Ting Chowning, NWABR Director of Education

Student Research Fellows East Day 6!

Human Clinical Trials–the good, the bad, and what it takes to conduct your own.

Some student quotes:

“Today we learned that there are 3 phases to a clinical trial for humans, starting at Phase I with twenty people to Phase III with thousands of people.”

“I learned about how difficult is can be to get into human trials. Consenting is a huge part, that has been abused over the years.”

After determining if we were doing Human Subjects Research with an IRB checklist, we looked at a consent form to participate in a lung capacity study.

“Did you know you can actually measure your lung capacity? How cool is that?”

View more information on the Summer Student Research Fellows program at NWABR.

This program was supported by a Collaborations to Understand Research and Ethics (CURE), 1R25RR0251131, a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Center for Research Resources or the National Institutes of Health.

Collaborations to Understand Research and Ethics, a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health

Northwest Association for Biomedical Research -- logo