April 23, 2008

The Honorable Vernon Ehlers
United States House of Representatives
2182 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Ehlers:

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) opposes the increases in mandatory set-asides required by federal extramural granting agencies proposed in HR 5819, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) Reauthorization Act. We remain gravely concerned that increases in mandatory set-asides for SBIR and STTR could have serious, negative consequences on the ability of those agencies to fund peer-reviewed scientific research.

AIBS is a nonprofit scientific association dedicated to advancing biological research and education for the welfare of society. Founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences, AIBS became an independent, member-governed organization in the 1950s. AIBS is sustained by a robust membership of some 5,000 biologists and nearly 200 professional societies and scientific organizations; the combined individual membership of the latter exceeds 250,000. AIBS advances its mission through participating in coalition activities in research, education, and public policy; publishing the peer-reviewed journal BioScience and the education Web site ActionBioscience.org; providing scientific peer review and advisory services to government agencies and other clients; convening meetings; and managing scientific programs.

HR 5819 would increase SBIR’s set-aside from 2.5 to 3 percent and STTR’s set-aside from 0.3 to 0.6 percent, a 20 and 100 percent increase, respectively.

Competitively awarded, peer-reviewed, extramural grants provided by agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health to investigators at universities and non-profit research centers are responsible for driving the basic and mission-driven research that leads to discovery and innovation. It is on the foundation of this fundamental research that the United States has become and will remain a global economic and scientific leader.

Increasing the set-asides for SBIR and STTR will collectively remove $650 million from extramural research funds at the 11 federal agencies that support extramural research. Specifically for NSF, this means that the research budget would be reduced by $28.9 million. Given that the NSF budget is not growing (in constant dollars), the SBIR/STTR set-asides could result in decreased funding to core programs at NSF, including the Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO).

BIO provides 67 percent of federal grant support for fundamental biological research at our nation’s universities and non-profit research centers; this research has led to the development of sustainable and cost-effective solutions for some of society’s greatest challenges, including energy independence, climate change, and security. However, since 1997, research grant submissions have increased 50 percent, and appropriations, when adjusted for inflation, have remained flat. Thus, an increased, mandatory levy on the NSF research budget for SBIR and STTR would likely result in cuts to core BIO programs, meaning research with the potential to transform our understanding of life will go unfunded.

AIBS strongly supports your amendment to remove the mandatory increases for SBIR and STTR set-asides, keeping the current 2.5 and 0.3 percent set-asides in place.

Thank you for your continued support of our nation’s scientific research enterprise, particularly the National Science Foundation. If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact AIBS Director of Public Policy, Dr. Robert Gropp, at 202-628-1500 or rgr@aibs.org.


Richard O’Grady, Ph.D.
Executive Director
To download a PDF copy of the letter, click here.

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