Columbia University Medical Center

Without Stable Funding, Scientists Can’t Innovate. — Gloria H. Su

My field, which is pancreatic cancer research, has historically been underfunded, given the number of people who die of this dire disease each year relative to the number of NIH research dollars allotted to it. I think that NIH cuts are going to impact every aspect of the field, including current work and the future pipeline of scientists.

Cuts to grant funding means a loss not just to individuals in labs, but to the whole community.

You lose the scientists you have recruited and nurtured all these years, because they may not be able to get consistent support for their work.  If you are a young scientist, you may have had your first R01 grant, but the second and third are important, too.  Without a continuation of funding, you may leave the field.  Or if you stay in the field, you may not be able to afford the risks that get you to the next level in your work, and eventually you end up leaving.

When you’re spending too much time writing grants and worrying about finances, you’re spending that much less time reading journal papers, conducting research, developing novel ideas, forming collaborative projects, and advancing medical discoveries—the important things that we scientists prefer to do and that we are trained to do well. We lose innovations that could have led to better treatments and cures.  But you never know what discoveries haven’t happened.

In my lab, I mentor a lot of students at all levels, including those in high school, to help get them excited about careers in science. But when I see NIH cuts like these, I’m not sure that I’m doing these kids a service.

Read more perspectives from the CUMC community on the importance of NIH funds.