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San Diego Research Feels Federal Budget Squeeze

Above: Budget battles in Washington, D.C. have affected scientists in San Diego.

San Diego scientists depend on federal dollars to carry out much of their research. But keeping them funded is an uphill political battle. Elected officials met with local research community leaders Monday to discuss the state of federal research funding.

Aired 3/18/14 on KPBS News.

San Diego scientists depend on federal dollars to carry out much of their research, but keeping their projects funded is an uphill political battle.

Attendees said cuts threaten advancements both in human health and San Diego's economy. Dr. Gary Firestein, director of the Clinical and Translational Research Institute at UC San Diego, expressed concern about young researchers just starting to apply for grants.

"If they don't see any possibility of funding, they will leave the field," Firestein said. "And that's not just an effect for today. There's an effect we'll see in 10, 20 years, when these young investigators are not the senior investigators that are then leading the charge with innovative therapies."

Reps. Scott Peters and Susan Davis, both San Diego Democrats, called for a budget bump at the National Institutes of Health, where cuts have been the norm in recent years.

But securing that increase won't be easy. Even President Obama's proposed 2015 budget, which aims to keep research funding essentially flat, exceeds spending limits outlined by Congress.

Across-the-board spending cuts and the government shutdown last year both took a toll on research funding. The NIH budget has not climbed back to pre-sequestration levels.

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