The Picture for Behavioral Research: An In-depth Look at the FY 2005 Federal Budget

In February, the White House released its federal budget request for the fiscal year 2005. The figures for behavioral and psychological science research funding are expected to increase, but the question remains if Congress will be as generous to the field as it has been in recent years. With elections looming, and the deficit continuing to grow, the budget outlook is more unpredictable than ever.

Because the appropriations process for fiscal year 2004 was completed by Congress only days before the FY 05 budget was released), the proposed increases and decreases are based only on estimates of what final FY 04 budget numbers would be, rather than the actual budget approved by Congress and the president. As a result, many of the increases offered by the White House are not as high as they appear to be in the proposed budget.1

For the National Institutes of Health, the overall proposed increase is only 1 percent, yet several of the research institutes will be receiving higher percentage increases. These increases come at a time when several programs in the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the NIH, face level funding or even cuts. The National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse have received proposed increases of 2.2 percent. Showing even better are the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2.6 percent) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2.5 percent). These institutes each commit over $200 million of their respective research budgets to behavioral and psychological science. APS is working to ensure that Congress will increase these numbers in the coming months, or at the very least not reduce them.

There are possibilities for increased funding for behavioral research elsewhere at NIH as well. The NIH Office of the Director, or OD, received a proposed increase of 9.1 percent. The Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research, which is responsible for coordinating behavioral and social science research at NIH, is housed by the OD, and can benefit from this increase. Much of the director’s discretionary funds for research will be dedicated to the NIH Roadmap, a plan designed to bring transdisciplinary research and advances in science well into the 21st century, in the hopes that the public will receive an even greater benefit from NIH research. Among the programs being funded by the Roadmap initiative are several involving behavioral and psychological science research, including an RFA that will fund interdisciplinary health research among behavioral or social scientists and investigators in the biomedical, mathematical/computational, physical sciences and engineering. (Please see for more information.)

The National Science Foundation’s directorate in Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences fared well in the White House FY 05 budget, as it did last year. The administration has called for SBE’s budget to rise to $224.71 million, in just its tenth year of existence. This proposed increase is 9.6 percent above the $205 million in the final FY 04 budget, and is the highest recommended increase for any of the six directorates. Within SBE, the Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences program is slated for an increase of approximately 10.9 percent, to a total of $76 million.

In both FY 03 and FY 04, the final budget for SBE resulted in an increase over the previous year. However, both years saw Congress approve a number lower than the original White House request. Despite this unsettling trend, SBE has continued to grow at a pace, as strong as any of the NSF science directorates.

The Human and Social Dynamics priority area, a foundation-wide initiative that will continue to study decision making and risk assessment, as well as the dynamics of human behavior, will be funded at a level of $23.25 million in FY 05. This is a slight decrease from the FY 04 level of $24 million. Close to $16 million of this amount will be contributed by the SBE directorate. Currently in its third year of a five-year life span, the HSD will support research on cognitive, linguistic, developmental, organizational, and other processes that are essential to understanding individual and group behavior. Also of interest to the HSD program is research on behavior in response to extreme events, such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

While the budget process remains unpredictable, behavioral science research is off to a modestly successful start. Updates will be available on the APS Web site,

1. The budget figures in this article, including proposed increases, are based on the actual FY 04 federal budget.

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