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Help is on the way

Within hours, the U.S. Senate is set to pass an economic stimulus package that includes $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health. The House of Representatives' version, which was passed late last month, contained $3.9 billion for the agency, and the two chambers must now iron out their differences before sending something to President Obama to sign.

No matter the outcome of Congressional negotiations, it seems a sure thing that NIH will be getting a fairly large chunk of money. And this is quite the welcome thing, especially considering the agency has seen flat funding since 2003. Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of Stanford's medical school, commented last week, "There is a backlog of highly meritorious NIH proposals that would benefit from funding; large national efforts that have been underfunded; a critical need for equipment, facilities and infrastructure; and the need to help support students, postdoctoral trainees and investigators - especially young investigators."

But some are urging caution about the possible windfall. "A stimulus bill is not the ideal vehicle for research spending, and, if scientists and their proponents aren't careful, the bill is a boon that could backfire," David Goldston, a visiting lecturer at Harvard University's Center for the Environment, wrote in last week's Nature Online. And his sentiments are echoed in an interesting post by Jake Young, a medical student blogger and Stanford alum.

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