I'm a post-doctoral fellow at a large medical school in the U.S. I'm looking for a 'permanent' position for me to conduct research. These positions largely don't exist.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) are the largest organization for funding basic biomedical research in the United States. If you want basic research done, these are the folks who pay for it. The NIH budget hasn't been keeping up with inflation over the last few years. The purchasing power of the NIH has decreased every year. That said, funding rates for new grants are going down. My wife's advisor, who is one of the top 3 scientists in his field, failed to get a grant renewed that he has had for nearly 20 years. It's a tough funding situation, and basic scientists are the first to feel the crunch.
Here's the way getting a job as an assistant professor usually works: After successfully interviewing for a position, the department offers you a startup package. This startup package is money that belongs to the department, and in my field, ranges from $500,000 to $1 million. For the department, this represents a fairly substantial investment in you (for which they will expect returns). The money is used to buy new equipment and hire people to work for you while you try to get grant support from the NIH (or any other organization that is hiring). The department will get a cut from your grant, so this is why it is an investment for them.
Currently, many universities see this as too big a gamble. The funding situation is so bad, that many new investigators will fail to get a grant, and the departments know it. So to hedge their bets, many new research positions are requiring that you have a grant before you apply for the position. But, the NIH doesn't allow temporary trainees (post-docs) to apply for grant money. But universities are mostly only hiring people who have a grant. But you need a permanent position to get a grant.
So, what does this have to do with McCain? Clinton and Obama both have explicit science policies that they describe on their web pages. Here's the first three of Clinton's science points:
1. Establish a $50-billion Strategic Energy Fund.Here's a short excerpt of Obama's:
2. Increase the basic research budgets 50% over 10 years at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the Defense Department.
3. Increase the NIH budget by 50% over 5 years and aim to double it over 10 years.
Double federal science and research funding for clean energy projects, relying on the resources and ability of our national laboratories, universities and land grant colleges.Here's McCain's:
Barack Obama supports doubling federal funding for basic research, changing the posture of our federal government from being one of the most anti-science administrations in American history to one that embraces science and technology.
Oh. He doesn't have one.
If John McCain wins, and we continue starving the NIH, there will be a whole generation of post-docs who will complete their training to find no jobs available for them. And all of their ideas, and all of the science they would have done will be moved elsewhere (either to other countries, or into industry). All of the biotech companies that would have been started, all of the basic science that could be done, and all of the young, fresh ideas that could be hatched will be moved elsewhere.