“It’s so hard to know” what the Trump White House will do, said Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and professor of genomics at the Scripps Research Institute.
One hopeful sign: Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives and a close Trump ally, last year called for a doubling of the National Institutes of Health budget and is a strong supporter of science research (he used to have a replica of a T. rex skull in his office).
“I have spoken to Newt in the past, around the time of his NIH op-ed, and I know he is passionate about that,” said Topol. “But will his views have influence? It’s unclear who Trump will turn to for top advisors in science and biomedical research.”
“Some responsible scientist needs to educate [Trump’s transition team] about the importance of the scientific enterprise,” said Dr. Harold Varmus, a former director of the NIH and now at Weill Cornell Medicine. “I hope we’re going to be able to accommodate the new reality. But someone needs to give the transition team a tutorial.”
One concern: Trump told a radio host last year, “I can tell you, because I hear so much about the NIH, and it’s terrible.”
Nor is it clear how Trump’s anti-immigration stance would affect the willingness, or ability, of foreign science and medical students to study, train, and stay in the US.
The number of graduate students in science and engineering rose 5.5 percent from 2013 to 2014, the latest figures available, according to the National Science Foundation, from 570,300 to 601,883.
Much of that increase reflected a years-long rise in the number of foreign graduate students on temporary visas, which grew 7.4 percent from 2012 to 2013 and 16 percent from 2013 to 2014. At many US biomedical labs, they constitute a majority of the bench talent.
For Begley’s full report, click here.
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