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Research Funding

US science may see funding increases across the board

President Biden’s budget proposal for 2022 tackles health, climate, diversity, manufacturing, and more

by Andrea Widener and , Cheryl Hogue
April 15, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 14

 

Science takes center stage in US president Joe Biden’s 2022 funding request, with research and environment agencies all slated for increases—many in the double digits—in 2022.

“Federal research investment is the lifeblood of American innovation and the administration’s proposal would ensure the U.S. is positioned to lead in critical areas such as health, climate, and manufacturing,” Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, says in a statement.


Big boost for science spending
Big boost for science spending US president Joe Biden's budget proposal for 2022 includes double-digit increases for almost all science research agencies.
Chart showing Biden's requested percentage increase for select science agencies for 2022 over 2021 spending.
Source: "Summary of the President's Discretionary Funding Request" for fiscal year 2022. Note: The US federal government's 2022 fiscal year runs from Oct. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2022.

Biden’s proposal for US federal funding contrasts strongly with former president Donald J. Trump’s budget requests, which routinely suggested cuts for most science agencies, especially those connected to the environment.

The proposal, unveiled April 9, gives a preliminary overview of desired funding rather than a detailed breakdown, which will be available in coming weeks. US presidential budget proposals are mostly suggestions to Congress, which routinely ignores presidents’ plans. But the proposals do indicate a president’s priorities, especially when it comes to science research.

Health and pandemic preparedness are among Biden’s major areas of focus. For researchers, the most important investment might be $6.5 billion slated to create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) within the National Institutes of Health. The new agency “would drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs” in areas including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, the proposal says.

Climate change is another priority. Support for climate and clean energy research is spread across several agencies, including the Department of Energy (DOE), National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, and others.

The plan allocates $1 billion to create another ARPA, this one centered on addressing climate (ARPA-C), inside the DOE. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would get $6.9 billion to increase its climate observation and forecasting and deliver better data about climate change to decision makers.

The administration also wants more money to support international policy efforts to curb climate change and pandemics. Specifically, $2.5 billion would go to climate programs, including assistance to developing countries to adapt to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Increased funding for research and development is also a major part of Biden’s budget proposal, pitched as part of jobs creation. The president suggests research funding increases of 21% at the National Institutes of Health, 20% at the National Science Foundation, 10% at the Department of Energy (DOE), and 6% at NASA.

Mary Woolley, CEO of the advocacy group Research!America, hopes Congress will add even more funding for agencies to help reverse research setbacks caused by the pandemic.

“COVID-19 did not compromise progress indiscriminately; it disproportionately derailed early career researchers, women, and racial and ethnic minorities,” Woolley says in a statement. “Our federal research agencies need supplemental resources to make up for lost time and repair the damage COVID-19 has done to the diversity and inclusivity of the R&D workforce.”

To that end, Biden additionally asks for a funding boost of $100 million for programs at several agencies aimed at increasing the number of Black, Latino, and other scientists from groups traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering fields. The proposal also includes $600 million in additional support for historically Black colleges and universities and other universities that serve populations underrepresented in the sciences.

For the immigrant workforce, Biden requests increased funding for the Department of Homeland Security to deal with the backlog of applications for people who would like to become naturalized citizens.

Biden also includes science agencies in his pitch for increased manufacturing support. The proposal increases the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) funding for two new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, which bring together industrial, academic, and government scientists to tackle major research challenges. One of the two institutes would focus on semiconductor design and manufacturing.

The NIST budget proposal almost doubles funding for NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, from $150 million to $275 million. The program aims to help small- and medium-sized companies access improved technology.

And for the Environmental Protection Agency, for which the Trump administration last proposed a 32% cut, Biden asks for a 21% boost from 2021 spending at the agency.

Included in the increase is $100 million for a new environmental justice program for air quality monitoring and notification in communities exposed to disproportionate amounts of pollution, including those at or near industrial facilities. The agency would also spend an additional $30 million to enforce existing laws to protect communities from pollution and hold polluters accountable.

In addition, the budget allocates $75 million for toxicity studies that will support regulation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as environmental contaminants. This group of extremely persistent synthetic chemicals includes many compounds that are toxic. PFAS taint many water public supplies across the US.

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