ASA President Asks ASA Members to Help Avoid Steep Cuts to NSF, NIH, and Federal Statistical Agencies

By Steve Pierson posted 12-05-2012 10:20

ASA President Bob Rodriguez yesterday asked ASA members in the U.S. to urge their U.S. senators and representatives to prevent cuts to NSF, NIH and the federal statistical agencies. Bob's email is pasted below.

I would like to second Bob's request. With Members of Congress hearing from their constituents about a wide range of programs, it is imperatives for statisticians and biostatisticians also communicate their priorities to their elected officials. Bob's message speaks well to the importance of avoiding the 8.2% cuts to NSF, NIH and the federal statistical agencies. Briefly, NSF and NIH would have to make sharp cuts to the number of new grants they fund. This would have many deleterious impacts including less support for graduate students. Because the federal statistical agencies already operate on lean budgets, they would likely have to eliminate surveys and/or lay off employees.

Please take a few moments to respond to Bob's request. All the options provided for contacting your senators and reprentatives can be completed in minutes.

ASA's call-to-action is part of a much broader campaign in the scientific community to highlight the importance of research to the United States. I have been to numerous meetings and on many conference calls to coordinate efforts to avoid the across-the-board cuts set to take effect in January.

As a note on ASA process, the ASA board approved such call-to-action emails in 2009. The last such email to all ASA members in the U.S. was in 2010.

See my other blog entries.

======== President Bob Rodriquez's email to ASA members in the U.S. ===========

Dear ASA Members,

Large across-the-board federal budget cuts will take effect in January unless Congress and President Obama negotiate a compromise. With 8.2% cuts for NIH, NSF, and the statistical agencies, statisticians and biostatisticians will see far fewer funding opportunities, and statistical agencies will have to scale back their vital work.

I ask you to urge your U.S. senators and representative not to cut the budgets of these important agencies. Here are three options for contacting them today.

1.    Call their offices. You can find contact information at the House of Representatives website (or enter your ZIP code at and at the Senate website.

2.    Use the contact feature on your senators’ and representative’s websites. See option 1 for accessing these web pages. Use the template language at the end of this email.

3.    Use the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s action-alert website. This website has customizable template messages and will send them to your senators and representative based on your ZIP code. The template message includes this broad language: “[The across-the-board cuts] will require NIH, NSF, and other federal agencies to make funding cuts that will affect all areas of research and prevent critical projects from being completed at universities and institutions across the country.” If you use this option, please edit the language to include the federal statistical agencies.

If you choose option 1, the message to your elected representatives is simple: “Do not cut the budgets of NIH, NSF, and the federal statistical agencies.”

For options 1 and 2, your message will be more powerful if you personalize it by explaining how budget cuts could affect your research, students, or institution. Generally, these cuts would mean an estimated 2,300 fewer grants funded by NIH next year and 1,500 fewer by NSF.

If you are a government employee, please do not use your work resources to contact your members of Congress.

To learn more about the across-the-board budget cuts, go to the following websites:

By sending you this action alert, the ASA seeks to ensure NIH, NSF, and the statistical agencies don’t suffer disproportionate budget cuts. As you can imagine, Congress is hearing from constituents concerned about a wide swath of federal programs, and it’s easiest for Congress to cut programs they are not hearing about. That’s why it is so critical for you to communicate your concerns about the planned budget cuts.

Thank you for your consideration. If you have questions, contact Steve Pierson, ASA director of science policy, at (703) 302-1841.

Bob Rodriguez
2012 ASA President

P.S. Please note that during its August 2009 meeting, the ASA Board of Directors approved sending call-to-action emails to ASA members only about urgent statistical and science policy issues being debated in Washington, DC. If you prefer not to receive these types of emails in the future, please email Steve Pierson.

Template language for option #2 above (adopted from FASEB website):

Please insert 2–3 sentences about how the cuts would affect your work, research, institution, students, …

Dear Senator/Representative ____,

I am writing to urge you to work with your fellow members of Congress and the president to ensure the pending across-the-board budget cuts do not take effect. The 8.2% budget cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the federal statistical agencies would be very harmful to the U.S. research and statistical data infrastructure.

The cuts to NSF and NIH would mean fewer grants at a time when a high proportion of highly rated proposals already go unfunded. This will affect all areas of research and prevent critical projects from being completed. Labs may be forced to close, resulting in layoffs of tens of thousands of researchers. It will take generations to recover the lost talent, as highly trained and dedicated young scientists and engineers will be driven from science by the disruption to their training and lack of jobs. The damage to our nation's health, security, and international competitiveness will be devastating.

The cuts to the statistical agencies could affect our decision making and ultimately cost the taxpayer more money. Data from the federal statistical agencies facilitate i) economic growth and development, ii) smart and efficient government, and iii) the saving of taxpayer money. As an example of the third point, extensive research, testing, and planning are under way now for the 2020 Decennial Census. The GAO has said that, unless major design changes are made, the 2020 Decennial Census could cost the American taxpayer $17 billion more than the 2010 Census. Reducing the U.S. Census Bureau budget could therefore undermine the critical 2020 Decennial Census cost-cutting work now being done.

Funding for research and statistical data is not the cause of the nation's debt, and slashing research budgets will compromise our future. In closing, I respectfully request that you work with your colleagues to stop the pending across-the-board budget cuts from taking effect in January. Federal investment is essential to fund the kind of critical research needed to develop new treatments for debilitating and costly illnesses, foster innovation in engineering, and address the increased demand for better nutrition. We must safeguard and sustain this essential public-private partnership that keeps our nation globally competitive and promotes economic growth and job creation.