FY 2018 Federal Funding Set, but Work Continues on NIH Clinical Trials

March 28, 2018

The omnibus bill to fund the federal government in FY 2018 was signed into law on Friday, March 23, 2018. The two-year budget deal reached on February 9, 2018,  increased spending caps for both defense and nondefense in the budget, making it easier to get the FY 2018 bills over the finish line. Still, it wasn’t easy, and took almost six months into the fiscal year to complete.

The $1.3 trillion omnibus, over 2200 pages in length, included all twelve annual spending bills, and passed both chambers about 24 hours after its release. Passage of the bill allowed Members of Congress to avoid another government shutdown or the need to clear a sixth Continuing Resolution to continue government funding beyond the midnight deadline when funding would expire.

There is much to celebrate in this bill and the report. For the key science agencies that fund behavioral and brain sciences, this is what the funding picture looks like:

  • NIH will receive $37.08 billion, a boost of $3 billion over FY 2017. This funding includes $496 million from the 21st Century Cures Act. Specific funding levels for NIH Institutes and Centers can be found on pages 28-36 and 102-104 (tables) in this report.
  • NSF will receive $7.8 billion, an increase of $295 million over FY 2017. The Research and Related Activities line, which includes funding for all research directorates except Education and Human Resources, will be funded at $6.3 billion, a $301 million increase. The Education and Human Resources Directorate is slated to receive $902 million, an increase of $28.7 million. Importantly, there is no language that would cut funding for the SBE Directorate. Details related to NSF can be found on page 48-50 and 67-68 (tables) here.
  • The Institute for Education Sciences will receive $613.46 million, an increase of $8 million. The increase is distributed between regional education labs (up $1 million), special education research (up $2 million), and research, development, and dissemination (up $5.2 million). All other areas are held flat. Details on IES funding can be found on page 138 here.
  • The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will receive $334 million in discretionary funding, an increase of $10 million from FY 2017. This is welcome news for an agency that often faces funding cuts. Details for AHRQ can be found on page 46-48 and 108 (table) here.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will receive $8.3 billion, about $1.1 billion over FY 2017. Details are provided on page 11-28 and 99-101 (tables) here.

In addition to the excellent news about science funding for FY 2018, FABBS’s interaction with basic scientists and Capitol Hill staff over the last six months led to the addition of language in the report accompanying the bill that puts on hold part
of the NIH clinical trials policy and only as it relates to basic science research. The report language also urges the agency to consult with the basic research community “to determine the reporting standards best suited to this kind of research.” NIH must submit to the Appropriations Committees a plan and schedule for soliciting comments within 30 days. Within 3 months, the agency must brief the Committees about the results of the consultations.

FABBS led the basic science community in responding to the clinical trials issue, and we are pleased to see this progress. As Jocelyn Kaiser reported in Science Magazine on January 23, 2018, the NIH’s clinical trials policy would “kick in” for basic scientists in January, despite the continued concerns from behavioral scientists.

Although repeated revisions of the case studies had reduced some of the fears, problems still existed.

Kaiser wrote: “The controversy is not over, however. ‘The definition is still murky in areas … and relies primarily on one person at NIH, Mike Lauer, to make the call’ on which studies are included, says Paula Skedsvold, executive director of FABBS…. Meanwhile, FABBS is talking to staff on key committees in Congress about their complaints. ‘Our communities of scientists continue to call for a return to the historically clear distinction between basic science and clinical trials,’ Skedsvold says. One possibility is that lawmakers will insert a provision in a spending bill that would stop NIH from moving forward with the policy.”

Appropriators heard the concerns of the basic behavioral and brain science community and responded. The work continues, and we’ll brief our communities of scientists as we know more about NIH’s plans.

Clinical Trials Report Language (pages 34-35): http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20180319/DIV%20H%20LABORHHS%20SOM%20FY18%20OMNI.OCR.pdf

Science article: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/01/nih-s-new-clinical-trial-policy-kicks-despite-concerns-basic-behavioral-researchers