Scientists at the recently-concluded American Society of Hematology meeting in Atlanta were queuing up to express their concerns about imminent cuts in funding for the USA's National Institutes of Health.

A survey highlighting the correlation between cutting-edge medical research and NIH funding was published at the meeting which drew more than 20,000 attendees. It included responses from 1,040 abstract presenters from the USA and abroad, demonstrating "how critical NIH funding has been to the success of science and medicine".

As the largest federal funding agency for medical research, the NIH invested more than $30 billion in fiscal 2012 and over 80% of the budget goes to more than 300,000 research personnel at 2,500 universities and research institutions across the country. However, as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, scheduled to go into effect at the end of this year, NIH funding will be cut by 8%-10%; it is nearly 20% lower today than it was nine years ago.

According to US respondents to the ASH survey, 86% of abstract presenters said they had referenced an NIH study in conducting their own research over the years and 75% said they are “extremely concerned” about the impact of cuts on medical R&D and on their future careers. ASH also noted that 52% of all respondents said they have referenced NIH-funded research and 44% said they were extremely concerned.

ASH president-elect Janis Abkowitz of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, noted that with nearly two-thirds of the US presenters at this year’s meeting reporting that they rely on NIH funding, "this survey shows unequivocally that those breakthroughs depend on NIH investment".