VCR Update: The Current State of NIH Funding

Vice Chancellor for Research Harold Collard shares a timely video message about the current status of NIH funding, important context within the national science landscape, and recommendations to advocate for more federal support.

Full Transcript and Links

Hello, everyone. This video is the first in what I hope will become a series of brief communications about big picture topics facing UCSF’s research community. As part of our UCSF Office of Research communications efforts, these short-form video messages are designed to help our community build a collective understanding of the academic research landscape and foster engagement in the stewardship of UCSF's research mission. 

Today’s topic is NIH funding – how it relates to UCSF’s research enterprise and what the recent Congressional appropriation of a “flat NIH budget” for 2024 may mean for us.  

As you probably know, UCSF is heavily reliant on NIH funding to power our research enterprise. In 2023, we received $789 million in total funding spread across 1,484 grants and supporting a broad range of biomedical, clinical, social, and population health science.  

Late last month, Congress released the fiscal year 2024 budget for NIH at $47.1 billion. This is essentially unchanged from 2023. As the journal Science reported shortly thereafter, this outcome was no surprise. The political realities in Washington DC are that discretionary spending caps are tight, and this environment suggests next fiscal year, which is being negotiated now, could look very similar. 

What does a flat NIH budget mean for UCSF’s research community? We need to be honest here - it will likely make successful funding of new NIH research grants over the next few years more difficult, resulting in more time and effort on the part of our investigators in submitting grant applications. It is also possible that existing grants, or non-competing renewals, could experience budget cuts. Each institute will likely have different strategies for adapting. 

I and the UCSF Office of Research staff remain deeply committed to supporting UCSF faculty grant submissions and reducing the administrative burden of this work wherever possible. And I am confident that UCSF investigators will remain highly competitive for new grants despite lower funding levels; we have historically weathered flat NIH budgets much better than the at-large academic research community. But there is no denying the stress this will put on our research community. This is a time for leveraging our remarkably collaborative faculty and staff colleagues to support each other in the grant development and submission process, and to navigate the broader funding landscape to sustain our research programs; my office will be working with the schools directly on how we can best contribute to this effort. 

In the longer-term, I remain optomistic about research funding at NIH and other biomedical and health sciences agencies. Despite a political climate that has worsened society’s trust in science generally, support for biomedical and health scientists remains strong. This is reflected in polls of everyday Americans and in the conversations that I have with stakeholders in Washington DC. This means that when a window of opportunity for increased budgets opens politically, NIH will have strong support in the halls of Congress and among the broader population. 

In the interim, it is critical that UCSF continue to advocate strongly for research funding with stakeholders across the spectrum. There are many opportunities for advocacy with policy makers through societies and professional organizations, and I encourage every member of the UCSF research community to participate in some way. The UCSF Community and Government Relations Office is a great place to engage, for example, by joining our UC Advocates group. Translating your research into policy action is also an important advocacy opportunity - policymakers are eager to hear stories of discovery and impact that Federal dollars have made possible. Here are UCSF, we have several resources to help you learn how to engage in policy, including the IMPACT program and the Impacting Policy Series.  

I hope this brief discussion of NIH funding has helped you to understand the current reality, motivated you to engage with your colleagues in thinking strategically about how to navigate the near-term funding landscape, and encouraged you to use your science and scientific standing to advocate for investment in the academic research mission. 

I am happy to hear from you with questions, feedback, or ideas on this topic. You can reach me at [email protected].