Science fares well in FY 2018 appropriations bill

Funding is healthy, and NIH clinical trial policy is suspended.

[updated 3/27/18]

The congressional appropriations committees have labored mightily and produced a $1.3 trillion final funding bill for Fiscal Year 2018, the current fiscal year. In February Congress raised the budget caps that had made reaching agreement on a full year’s spending legislation difficult. With a two-year budget agreement and extra money in hand, the appropriations committees produced a bill that passed both houses of Congress and was signed by the President before the temporary funding bill expired.

The bill was worth waiting for: it repudiated many of the proposed cuts and reorganizations that appeared in President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget. Some of the increases are, frankly, astounding: a $3 billion, 8.3 percent increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including $414 million for Alzheimer’s research and $500 million for opioid research. (The Trump budget had proposed a 22% cut.)

Other science agencies and their allies have reason to celebrate:

  • The National Science Foundation would receive a 3 percent increase overall ($7.8 billion), but a 5 percent increase to its research account ($6.3 billion). This is an increase of $295 million. The omnibus bill includes no language regarding cuts to the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would receive $8.3 billion, about $1.1 billion above the Fiscal Year 2017 level. The bill includes language (p. 23) that tweaks the ongoing amendment affecting CDC’s research on firearms violence prevention. The language makes clear that such research is permitted while continuing to emphasize that CDC research may not advocate or promote gun control.
  • The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the Department of Education would receive $613 million, an $8 million increase over the 2017 level. While this increase is a step in the right direction, it is worth recalling that in Fiscal Year 2010 the IES budget was $660 million.
  • The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality received an additional $10 million, for a total of $334 million, despite last year’s efforts by the administration to defund the agency and its Fiscal Year 2019 proposal to integrate it with NIH.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration would receive $20.7 billion, an increase of $1.1 billion, and science programs within NASA would increase by 7.9 percent, to 6.2 billion.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency budget remains at $8.1 billion this year, as lawmakers rejected deep proposed cuts.

Significantly for basic psychological scientists, the omnibus includes language (p. 34-35) suspending NIH’s new definition of clinical trials and calling for NIH to revamp the policy with input from the scientific community. NIH’s controversial new definition of clinical trials, which went into effect in late January, swept in almost all research using human participants, and instituted new requirements for the research now deemed “clinical.” APA had advocated vigorously with the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences and other scientific associations to modify the definition.  Watch for more information about how the implementation of this congressional directive will unfold and affect grant applications, review and other matters at NIH. 

For more information about provisions of the bill that were of interest to APA and its members, see this news release.