Sexual Behavior Research at NIH Threatened

Grants Targeted by House Amendment

Transcript of House Floor Debate on the Amendment offered by Rep. Toomey

See how your Representative voted

2002 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior



If Congress were to stop funding peer-reviewed and currently funded scientific research, the consequences to scientific productivity could be devastating. We urge you to oppose any attempts to restrict funding of sexual health and behavior research and protect the integrity of the peer review process at NIH – and all scientific agencies!


Recently, some Members of Congress have called into question funding decisions made by the National Institutes of Health regarding peer-reviewed health-related studies of sexual development and behavior. The undersigned scientific and public health organizations support the decision of NIH to fund health research, which includes sexual function and behavior. We have confidence in the peer review procedures NIH has put in place to judge the worth and relevance of the scientific research it funds.


An amendment may be offered to legislation that funds NIH that would prohibit funding health-related research on sexual behavior. We urge you to oppose any attempts to restrict NIH funding and protect the integrity of the peer review process. Such restrictions would disregard the highly respected peer review system and the contract implied in an award of funding from a federal agency. It would deal a blow to all of science.


Scientists can only conduct their research in a stable atmosphere where the rules are transparent and procedures are followed and the integrity of the peer review system is insulated from outside influences.


NIH has one of the finest scientific peer review systems in the world—ensuring only the best scientific research is funded.


·        NIH supports over 150 “study sections” made up of expert scientists who volunteer their time to review the applications for research grants.


·        Proposals submitted to NIH are extensive documents that outline the broad health issues, theory and procedures for the proposed cutting edge research. Applications are reviewed for the overall impact the research could have on the field, including the study’s significance, approach, innovation, investigator’s credentials and facilities.


·        Nearly 70% of submitted applications fail to receive funding from NIH through the peer review process. Only research proposals of the highest scientific merit receive support with federal funds.


·        Congress and the American people can be confident that if a study was peer reviewed and funded by the National Institutes of Health, that qualified scientists consider it a high-quality study and expect it to make a significant contribution to knowledge in the field.



Sexual Health Research Addresses Critical Public Health Issues


·        The 2002 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior recognized that sexual health is a public health issue. The report explicitly calls for additional federal investments in basic research in human sexual development, sexual health, reproductive health, as well as social and behavioral research on risk and protective factors for sexual health. Diminished research in this area will lead to fewer interventions for promoting sexual health and responsible sexual behaviors.  The public health consequences could be severe including increased incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV/AIDS infection, unintended pregnancy, sexual dysfunction, and sexual violence. Sexual dysfunction in marriages may also lead to higher rates of divorce.


It’s important that NIH fund research on adult sexual function and behavior.


·        A Journal of the American Medical Association study reported that 43% of women surveyed had experienced some form of sexual dysfunction in the past year, as compared with 31% of men.


·        A national longitudinal study of 2033 married persons found that a decline in happiness with marital sex between 1980 and 1983 predicted divorce during the following five years.


·        Another study documented that 62% of women suffering from sexual dysfunction had difficulty in becoming aroused.


·        Sexual dysfunction is often a side effect of treatments for cancer, depression, hypertension, mental illnesses, and epilepsy.


·        Sexual dysfunction may be a result of physical factors, such as menopause or prostate disorders, or psychological factors, such as anxiety, and both issues deserve medical research and treatment.


·        A recent survey indicated that women are not receiving proper medical attention for these disorders in part because physicians have little understanding of the medical and psychological factors that may disrupt women’s sexual health. The study found that only 14% of doctors offered any treatment when women complained of sexual problems.


Given the public health impact of STDs, HIV/AIDS, sexual dysfunction and sexual violence, it would be irresponsible for NIH not to fund high-quality peer-reviewed research on basic sexual functions and behavior.  We urge you to oppose any attempts that seek to restrict NIH support for high quality, peer-reviewed research.  For more information, please contact Karen Studwell of the American Psychological Association at or Angela Sharpe of the Consortium of Social Science Associations at