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Government Shutdown Hinders Biomedical Research

Image credit: Nature News1

Amidst the many challenges facing the life sciences industry today such as diminishing funding sources, increased costs to develop new drugs and products and major pharmaceutical patents expiring, a government shutdown has occurred leaving scientists in the lurch. Lawmakers are in a standstill as they disagree over the 2014 budget. Government-funded organizations around the country have been closed and workers have been furloughed without pay until a decision can be reached.1 The government shutdown is affecting every walk of life with closures from National Parks to the Centers for Disease Control. If an agreement on the budget is not reached soon, the US debt will default with possibly disastrous consequences to the US economy.

The government shutdown is taking a heavy toll on scientific research in the US. Short term consequences on research include:

  • Scientific meetings cancelled or rescheduled: Given that federal speakers and participants are barred from attending meetings, several conferences were cancelled including the AAAS microbiome research symposium.2
  • Databases closed: The federal government maintains several online resources for data sharing and analysis including Pubmed, GenBank, and BLAST. During the government shutdown, these resources are unavailable.2
  • Facilities closed: Federally funded campuses are closed. Most significantly, researchers at the NIH are being denied access and are not allowed on campus to complete experiments. Minimal staff is allowed to maintain cell lines and organisms. Animal facilities are operating with minimal staff to care for animals, but experiments cannot proceed.1, 2, 3
  • Funds for grants not distributed: Funding awarded in the last grant cycle should have been distributed on October 1st, but companies and institutions have not received their money hampering their ability to perform research.2
  • Grant review panels delayed: Scheduled grant review panels were cancelled and will need to be re-organized for future dates. This involves coordinating travel for researchers travelling to the NIH for the review sections. Grants awaiting review will likely be significantly delayed in being reviewed and receiving awarded funds.2, 3
  • Reagents are unavailable: Supply ordering and shipments have been delayed or are unavailable. Shipments of reagents coming into the US are stuck in customs; this includes shipments of live organisms including fruit flies from stock centers in Europe and Japan.2, 3, 4

Scientific research is being severely hindered by the government shutdown. Modern society is increasingly dependent on technology, historically the foundation of this is government support. The government shutdown and sequestration have created new funding challenges that must be overcome.

At Scientist, we are saddened by the challenges facing scientific research. But we are committed to creating solutions through facilitating collaboration and access to research tools.

  2. Hayden, E.C. NIH shutdown effects multiply. 2013. Nature News doi:10.1038/nature.2013.13872
  3. Reardon, S. NIH campus endures slow decay. 2013. Nature News 502:279-280
  4. Kaiser, J. Tales of the shutdown: Fruit fly shipments on hold. Science Insider