NIH overhead plan draws fire

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Science  02 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6341, pp. 893
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6341.893

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President Donald Trump's administration has brought a long-simmering debate over how the U.S. government supports university research back to a boil. In its 2018 budget proposal released last week, the White House proposes cutting so-called indirect cost payments that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) makes to universities, hospitals, and research institutes by about two-thirds, to 10% of each grant. The administration says the change would allow it to redirect about $4.6 billion now spent each year on overhead—including maintaining labs and complying with regulations—to research. The shift would also enable it to cut NIH's budget by 22% without greatly reducing the agency's direct spending on science. The proposal has raised wide alarm. Some schools would tell their faculty to stop applying for NIH grants, observers predict, because the grants wouldn't come close to covering the full cost of the work.