The United States benefits from the finest system of biomedical and behavioral health research in the world. Health and other research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) has been guided by far-sighted policymakers who understand the value of long-term investments in research to improve health, and who have set up a system of the highest quality that allows good science to flourish. Effective policy planning and appropriate, stable funding levels are essential to producing outcomes that save lives and health care costs; enhance the quality of life of our families and children; and improve systems of health care delivery.
We urge the U.S. Congress to uphold the quality of our nation’s research enterprise by embracing the following fundamental values that have supported its development and quality. Diminishing these principles can only cause harm to the American people and the rest of the world, by undermining the collective efforts of researchers and clinicians to improve health. We strongly urge Congress and the Executive Branch to support:
1) Relying on scientific merit review (also called ‘peer review’) to judge the quality and relevance of research proposals. Hundreds of scientists and clinicians from universities and research institutions across the country, representing a wide range of disciplines, volunteer their time and expertise to make the system work. In the competition for funding, fewer than 30 percent of high-quality scientific proposals receive support. This merit review, combined with a second-level review by the scientific and lay (public) members of health advisory councils ensures that scientific merit and public values work together to fund only the best science.
2) Researching all behaviors and conditions that impact public health and all populations who are burdened by that impact. Protection of the public’s health requires that all diseases/conditions and relevant behaviors be investigated without the burden of ideological prejudice.
3) Basing health policies on the best available scientific data and knowledge.
4) Including public participation in scientific priority setting. Through established formal mechanisms and public debate, members of Congress and private citizens contribute valuable ideas and expertise to the development of NIH research priorities. As an agency funded with public dollars, NIH and the scientists it entrusts with support work hard to maintain the public trust.