Nelson said many post-doctoral researchers and other young scientists are encountering greater difficulties obtaining grants than more seasoned peers because their track records are less extensive.
“If we lost a generation of the most talented thinkers, we are going to be paying the price for decades to come,” Nelson said. “It is very hard to get funds at the beginning of your career.”
Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, an anti-spending advocacy group in Washington, said the funding reductions for medical research show the senselessness of the broader forced budget cuts, which Congress didn’t intend to go into effect, but rather to use as a threat to force lawmakers to find more targeted cuts.
“Sequestration sucks,” Ellis said. “It’s across the board. It’s mindless. It cuts the good and the bad equally.”
Ellis, who said his mother is a two-time survivor of breast cancer, said his group proposed $2 trillion in spending cuts that would not have reduced spending on science, but its plan was ignored.
"I’m somewhat sympathetic because my mom is twice-over a breast cancer survivor,” he said, “but I also recognize that we need to rein in our budget excesses."
Jon Retzlaff, policy chief with the American Association for Cancer Research, said he and others are holding the rally to demonstrate that medical research must remain a national priority.
“We’ve reached a crisis moment in supporting medical research,” Retzlaff said. “There’s never been a better time of pursuing scientific opportunity, but we are falling backwards in our ability to really pursue it.”