U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin met with medical researchers today at the University of Wisconsin's Milwaukee and Madison campuses.
She asked what Congress could do to help the next generation of scientists, some of whom are leaving the field.
A lot of basic biomedical research is done at universities where scientists depend on government grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Robert Golden, the dean of UW-Madison's medical school, notes that NIH funding has been dwindling.
"Right now these are the most frightening times that any of us who are from earlier generations have experienced," says Golden. "While the NIH budget has had its ups and downs, we have never have had a down period as deep and as long as this one."
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin plans to introduce legislation intended to help young scientists, but it won't make the NIH budget bigger.
"I regrettably tell you that the bill I'm going to introduce is not going to fix the funding issue," she said today.
Baldwin supports more NIH funding, which has decreased 22 percent over 10 years. However, her bill focuses on promoting ways to improve opportunities for young scientists - for instance, by improving mentorships between veteran and new researchers. The bill also calls for the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate barriers for early-stage scientists. Those barriers could be administrative, educational or cultural.
She says she will introduce the bill "not only to make that sure we have a next generation of scientists, but that they represent all walks of life in our country and give opportunities to all who are inspired and motivated to do this."
Baldwin touted medical breakthroughs funded by NIH grants. But she says the federal money also has an economic benefit: adding $800 million to Wisconsin's economy.