Government Research Funding Low at Times

While there are many science career opportunities in industry settings, a large portion of scientific research is funded by government organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Congress has not approved an NIH budget that did more than keep up with inflation in close to a decade. This means that there has been no growth in academic jobs over a wide array of scientific disciplines. In addition, due to the multiple recent mergers of major biotechnology companies, industry jobs in the biological sciences have stagnated, making federal funding that much more important for ongoing research. The federal government provides a large proportion of funding for basic research and development, including many areas of medical research related to biological science. In the early part of the decade, budget increases at the National Institutes of Health led to increases in federal basic research and development expenditures. However, the government funding of the NIH has decreased steadily since then. This means the level of federal funding will significantly affect competition for winning and renewing research grants and entail greater competition for a smaller pool of grants.

For the next year, NIH budget cuts may decrease the agency's funding by $1.6 billion. President Obama has sought to increase funding for biomedical research at the NIH and other government agencies that fund basic research. However, considering the national economy, the future of biomedical research funding is far from certain.

As mentioned, over the past ten years, funding for biomedical research in the U.S. has stagnated, just keeping up with inflation at best. Specifically, the 2012 budget proposal from the president's office allocates only 4 percent to research and development, a meager 1.1 percent increase over the 2010 budget. Given the budget available, the NIH will be focusing on funding translational research in the next several years. While an important area of research, this may decrease funding for some science jobs in basic research that do not have a translational component to them.

Another career that depends on government funding is teaching, providing science jobs for those with an interest in education. Teaching programs, such as the STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) programs try to ensure that American children are getting a solid education in the sciences. However, this program is at risk of drastic cuts, possibly leading to less science teaching opportunities. Specifically, the Senate is debating $11 billion in education cuts in the recently passed H.R. 1 bill. At risk is Title I funding for services that assist at-risk youth, cuts to which would eliminate 9,000 education jobs. The $5.6 billion in cuts to the Pell Grants program would compromise the college tuition of 1.5 million college students and possibly affect the demand for college lecturers. Combined, the cuts to education funding in the latest budget may significantly affect the number of teaching positions available.