Don't Stop Debating the Merits of Government Funded Science

Dean Li, M.D., Ph.D., associate VP for research at University of Utah Health Sciences wrote an op-ed for the Deseret News making the case to back government funded science.

Prominent Republicans are coming to the realization that if America is to remain a world leader, we must be the world leader in science and technology.

Earlier this month, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed doubling the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has lost 25 percent of its buying power over the last decade. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor offered this advice to colleagues as they enter budget negotiations: Resist the siren of short-term spending cuts and invest in scientific and medical research, a more powerful path to reducing the deficit.

Even fiscal conservatives — likely presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and tea party Republican Reps. Matt Salmon, R-Arizona, and Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas — are pushing for more science funding as a means to improve health care and defend America’s pole position in the innovation economy.

Now we need to translate their enthusiasm to GOP budgets. The latest version of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act would increase NIH funding by $10 billion over five years. Congress would still have to appropriate the cash. But it moves the debate forward. As a biomedical researcher in academia and private industry, my chief concern is we’ll stop debating the value of federally funding research.

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