May 11, 2020 - Health

Record-low science funding could slow research for coronavirus cure

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets

Medical workers processing on-site coronavirus tests in April. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic "comes at a time when the U.S. federal government’s investments in science are at the lowest levels in many years," Abby Joseph Cohen and Michael Hao Wu of Goldman Sachs Research write in a recent note to clients.

Where it stands: "The federal government now plays a much smaller role in advancing science than it did in the past. The consequence of this trend is particularly damaging for basic research, which depends on the government as its main source of funding."

  • "Since coming to office, the Trump administration has repeatedly attempted to limit funding for science, both for domestic research agencies and international public health programs."

By the numbers: In fiscal year 2019, federal R&D spending was 0.6% of U.S. GDP and 2.8% of total federal outlays, the lowest in more than 60 years, Cohen and Wu note.

  • In fiscal year 2019, federal R&D spending was down 14% from its 2011 levels.
  • "When adjusted for inflation, the first three years of the Trump administration had the lowest levels of federal R&D spending since FY 2002."
  • "The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to cut funding from federal research and public health agencies. Its FY 2021 budget released on February 10 proposed funding cuts of 18.6% for the CDC, 7.5% for NIAID, and 7.2% for NIH."

Go deeper: The race to make vaccines faster

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The latest: Even with early curfews in New York City and Washington, D.C., protesters are still out en masse. Some protesters in D.C. said they were galvanized by President Trump's photo op in front of St. John's Church on Monday and threat to deploy U.S. troops in the rest of country if violence isn't quelled, NBC News reports.

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What we're hearing: Aides say he hasn’t ruled out its use at some point, but that he's “pleased” with the way protests were handled last night (apart from in New York City, as he indicated on Twitter today) — and that for now he's satisfied with leaving the crackdown to states through local law enforcement and the National Guard.

What we expect from our bosses

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Workers — especially millennials and Gen Zers — are paying close attention to the words and actions of their employers during national crises, such as the protests following the killing of George Floyd in police custody.

Why it matters: American companies have an enormous amount of wealth and influence that they can put toward effecting change, and CEOs have the potential to fill the leadership vacuum left by government inaction. More and more rank-and-file employees expect their bosses to do something with that money and power.