Fox News selectively edited comments by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to accuse him of exaggerating the effects of automatic budget cuts that began March 1. Fox's excerpt of Reid's call to end the cuts left out his description of specific impacts and ignored widespread media reporting that supports his statements.
Due to the across-the-board spending cuts, the National Institute of Health (NIH) will be forced reduce its budget by $1.5 billion and expects to award 1,000 fewer grants in 2013. Because approximately three-fifths, or $40.8 billion, of all university research funding in 2011 came from the federal government, this loss will be disruptive. Some disruptions have already begun.
On April 25, Fox & Friends aired a short clip from Sen. Reid's April 24 remarks to the Senate that called for an end to the arbitrary budget cuts. Although Reid prefaced the aired comments with a broader description of the impact that the mandatory budget cuts may have on education and the economy, Fox Business host Stuart Varney and Fox News host Steve Doocy chose to focus on just three sentences, accusing Reid of "desperate" exaggeration. Doocy claimed that Reid "essentially is saying Republicans want to kill people."
Fox's short excerpt of Reid's testimony omitted context in which Reid detailed specific examples of how the budget cuts may curb medical research. Here is a larger excerpt of Reid's statement [what Fox aired is bolded]:
Nationwide these across-the-board cuts will cost 750,000 jobs. They will cost us investments in education that keep America competitive. They will cost millions of seniors, children, veterans and needy families the safety net that keeps them from descending into poverty.
Most of the headlines are focused on the hours the sequester has cost travelers in airports across the nation. The frustration and the economic effects of those delays should not be minimized. But the sequester could also cost this country - and humankind - a cure for AIDS or Parkinson's disease or cancer.
These arbitrary cuts have decimated funding for medical researchers seeking cures for diabetes, epilepsy and hundreds of other dangerous and debilitating diseases. The National Institutes of Health has delayed or halted vital scientific projects and reduced the number of grants it awards to research scientists. Thousands of researchers will lose their jobs in the next few months. And projects that can't go on without adequate staffing will be cancelled altogether.
At Ohio State University, grants for cancer research and infectious disease control have been axed. At the University of Cincinnati - which is at the forefront in research on strokes, a leading cause of death in the United States - scientists are bracing for similar cuts. Vanderbilt University and the University of Kentucky are accepting fewer science graduate students because of funding reductions. At Wright State University, scientists researching pregnancy-related disorders such as preeclampsia will lose their jobs. Boston University has laid off lab scientists, and research laboratories in San Francisco have instituted hiring freezes and delayed the launch of important studies. And grants to some of Harvard University's most successful research scientists were not renewed because of the sequester.
This kind of research saves lives. These scientists are looking for the next successful treatment for Alzheimer's disease or the next drug to treat high cholesterol. But they might never get the chance to complete their groundbreaking work or make their life-saving discoveries because of these short-sighted cuts.
We have seen the devastating impacts of these arbitrary budget cuts. Now it's time to stop them.
News reports confirm the cuts to medical research highlighted in Reid's statement.
The Toledo Blade reported that cuts to cancer and infectious disease research have already begun to take effect at Ohio State University. The school expects to lose $27 million by the end of 2014. The Blade also highlighted the $17 million cut expected to hit the University of Cincinnati's groundbreaking research on strokes and how the cuts have jeopardized Wright State University's potentially life-saving research on pregnancy complications:
In his lab at Wright State University, Thomas Brown is moving closer to understanding why some babies are born premature -- cutting-edge research that has the potential to save the lives of babies and their mothers.
But Brown, who has a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the underlying factors that cause pre-eclampsia and pregnancy-related disorders, faces uncertainty about the funding that makes his lab work possible.
According to U.S. News & World Report, Vanderbilt University already plans to reduce graduate student admissions for next year, and may have to cut research assistants on some of its 3,500 active research grants and contracts. The Stateline news service from the Pew Charitable Trusts reported that the University of Kentucky's College of Medicine reduced admissions to its Ph.D. program in physiology by a third due to federal budget cuts. Similarly, staffing reductions have begun to take effect among researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, which expects to lose more than $28 million. And Harvard Medical School shut down its primate research center, citing growing uncertainty of federal funding.
A professor from the Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine, who receives NIH funding for his research, warned in a Forbes blog post of the "very real consequences" of congressional failure to stop the automatic budget cuts, and pointed out that the cuts will hit high-priority projects:
Because of the budget shenanigans, NIH has been forced to cut or delay funding to almost all new projects. In other words, biomedical research that has already gone through rigorous peer review and been given top priority is on hold. And just to be clear: these are only the best projects. 80-85% of projects submitted to NIH, many of them excellent, don't make the cut because NIH just doesn't have enough funding for them.
If you are reading this, you either already benefit from medical research, or you will some day. Even if you are in perfect health, someone close to you probably uses a treatment that was supported by NIH. Virtually every major medical center in theUnited Statesdepends on this funding. There are few investments with broader impact, and broader public support, than biomedical research.