House bill gives NIH 3% raise, blocks cuts to overhead payments

Science – The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH's) budget would get a modest 3.2% raise, to $35.2 billion, in a draft spending bill released by a House of Representatives committee today. To the relief of U.S. research universities, the measure would also explicitly block a proposal by the Trump administration to slash by two-thirds the payments that NIH disburses to cover the overhead costs of the research it funds. Furthermore, the bill ignores a Trump plan to abolish NIH’s widely lauded global health center.

Although the $1.1 billion increase is only about half of the raises Congress has given the agency the past 2 years, the Trump administration had proposed cutting NIH’s budget by $7.5 billion, a drop of 22% from this year’s level. The White House had argued that this could be accomplished without much impact on number of grants or research overall by slashing how much NIH compensates universities for “indirect costs,” the administrative and facilities costs associated with the direct costs of a project, from 28% of its overall extramural research spending to a flat rate of 10% of a total individual grant.

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