“Peer review – not political review – is the gold standard
for choosing the very best science to support with
taxpayer money,” said Dr. Steven Breckler, APA’s
Executive Director for Science.
It’s important for scientists on Capitol Hill to have their
“elevator speech” ready, said Dr. Keith Humphreys, a
Stanford University professor who has served on many
White House, VA and other drug policy task forces.
Dr. Richard Spoth discussed his work helping the Office
of National Drug Control Policy craft evidence-based
strategies to develop a national prevention system.
Fixing the funding slump
While the social and economic cost of substance abuse is
rising, research budgets have been flat or contracting since
2007, said Patricia Kobor, of APA’s Science Government
Relations Office. For fiscal year 2012, the Senate is
considering a proposal that would decrease NIH’s budget
by 0.6 percent from its $30.7 billion 2011 budget, while
the House of Representatives is deliberating a 3. 3 percent
“The biomedical inflation rate for 2012 is 3 percent, so
even with this increase, NIH wouldn’t get rich,” Kobor said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is facing even
tougher times. President Barack Obama has proposed a
12 percent, or $72 million, cut to its research program.
The House passed a bill reinstating a portion of the
funding cut by the president, and the Senate version
would fully reinstate VA research support to its current
level. The Department of Defense’s budget has not yet
come under debate at this writing, but SciLC participants
pre-emptively advocated for level funding of the DoD
Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program, which funds
research on a wide variety of topics, including mental
health and substance-abuse issues, to improve the health
and well-being of all military service members, veterans
Challenges to the DoD, VA and NIH’s research
budgets are often motivated by the belief that the three
agencies conduct redundant studies, said Heather Kelly,
PhD, of APA’s Science Government Relations Office.
SciLC participants aimed to disabuse legislators of that
misconception. For instance, NIH funds research on
the brain-mechanisms of addiction, the DoD develops
substance abuse prevention strategies for military
personnel, and the VA tries out new treatment programs
for veterans. “Those three agencies work together
collaboratively to leverage each [others’] expertise and
focus. It’s not duplicative research, but complementary,”
In order to provide background knowledge before the
Hill visits, APA’s Science Directorate staff and invited
researchers armed SciLC attendees with the latest
information on the societal costs of substance abuse — and
on how research could help reduce those costs and improve
health and well-being.
Keith Humphreys, PhD, a psychologist and professor at
the Stanford University School of Medicine who recently
spent a year as a senior policy adviser at the White House
Office of National Drug Control Policy, emphasized the
need for scientists to deliver to policymakers clear, succinct
messages about the importance of funding for research and