At What Cost: Measuring the Impact of NIH Funding on States

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Dom Ruscio, Partner

Advocating on behalf of life sciences is never easy. Unlike transportation and infrastructure, defense or many other elements of society, there are no easy metrics against which to measure progress.

Several years ago, Congress asked the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to try its best to measure the value of medical research. NIH officials patched together an econometric model that measured the costs of major diseases. Crude as it was, the model attempted to quantify the impact each disease had on society, from shortened life expectancy and financial burden to revenues lost to the tax base and productivity decline.

Over time, the idea of “pricing out” diseases fell into disfavor. Critics didn’t believe the statistics; advocates felt uncomfortable reducing disease victims to cold data sets.    

But in an era of fiscal constraint—one that could last several years—the call goes out again for metrics. There’s still no easy answer, but FASEB, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, has released a set of state-by-state fact sheets that highlight how NIH funding directly benefits each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Each fact sheet reveals how research grants provided by NIH add value to local communities by improving health, training the next generation of scientists and boosting the economy through the creation of new business enterprises and higher paying jobs.

And to underscore the point that budget cuts have consequences back home, the fact sheets quantify how much money each state lost as a result of sequestration.

Feel free to check out how your state or region fared by clicking on updated factsheets.  

No bells, no whistles—just the facts.  

Lisa Ellington

Big Thinkery, LLC, 1011 Kenilworth Court Northwest, Concord, NC, 28027