Will Stem Cell Research Stimulate the Economy
ARRA and You (Part II). Statistics serve only to confirm what we instinctively already knew, the Executive Order of 2001 which banned funding for embryonic stem cell research did not reflect the will of the people. (see fig. 7-18) Though we live in a representative democracy, the ignorance and fears of the minority should not overrule the cautious optimism of the majority. My biology background taught me that correlation does not suggest causation, but during 2002 when about 35% favored this research and nearly 50% opposed it, I’m nevertheless, tempted to surmise that the American people second guessed themselves, “perhaps the President knows something I don’t,” they mused. By 2004 however, public opinion had decisively migrated back in favor of supporting this kind of medical research. So the scientific community and the majority of the broader public alike, breathed a collective sigh of relief with the signing of an Executive Order that reverses the ban of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The President stated,
“…the potential [embryonic stem cell] research offers is great, and with proper guidelines and strict oversight, the perils can be avoided. That is a conclusion with which I agree. That is why I am signing this Executive Order, and why I hope Congress will act on a bi-partisan basis to provide further support for this research.”
It is the hope of future legislation combined with the Executive Memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making that go further to prevent future challenges of this kind.
In conjunction with initiatives of the stimulus package (ARRA 2009), the new research agenda should indeed go a long way towards the recovery of the economy.
The changes that the Obama administration is bringing to biomedical research don’t end with this critical executive order. For the first time in the history of the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Colleges and Universities (initiated in 1972), in a two year period (2005-7) federal funding decreased when adjusted for inflation. Combine this with a decreasing trend in federal share of overall research and development dollars spent. In light of these statistics, the $8.2 billion allocated to the National Institutes of Health for extramural research via the ARRA is a logical decision, to say the least. While $800 million will be targeted to priority research areas through Challenge Grants (more on this later), another $1.1 billion is allocated for Comparative Effectiveness Research (more on this later). Anyone who wants to deny that science research and biomedical research, in particular are not significant sectors of our economy is simply fooling themselves (further explanation to come). In short, the President has opened a new frontier (by expanding embryonic stem cell research) and provided the funding with which to explore it, responsibly and ethically. All in less than 40 days in office.
I have laid the foundations in this post to for the impact of the ARRA on the health and research sectors and on you. In the following weeks look for posts expanding on:
- Employment, Economic Recovery and the Research Sector
- Challenge Grant Research Priorities
- Comparative Effectiveness Research
- Preventive Health Interventions
- HITECH Act
“A debt of gratitude to so many tireless advocates” at The White House Blog on March 9, 2009. http://www.whitehouse.gov/ blog/09/03/09 /A-debt-of-gratitude-to-so-many-tireless-advocates/
Federal Policy. In Stem Cell Information. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009 [cited March 16, 2009] Available at <http://stemcells.nih.gov/policy/ defaultpage>
NIH’s Role in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In From the Director. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009 [cited Saturday, March 16, 2009] Available at <http://www.nih.gov/about/director/ 02252009statement_arra.htm>
National Science Board. 2006. Science and Engineering Indicators 2006. Two volumes [Electronic Version]. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation (volume 1, NSB 06-01; volume 2, NSB 06-01A). Available at<http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind06/>
National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics
Universities Report Continued Decline in Real Federal S&E R&D Funding in FY 2007. Arlington, VA (NSF 08-320) [August 2008]. Available at <http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf08320/>