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On the precipice of the largest decrease in biomedical science funding ever.
August 16, 2010 7:22 PM   Subscribe

Having taken on the biggest job in biomedicine — leading the US National Institutes of Health — Francis Collins must now help his agency over a funding cliff.
posted by jjray (19 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Referring to the expiration of stimulus funding, or the absence of an inflation-based baseline budget increase, as a funding decrease, seems like the equivalent of the Republicans referring to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts as "raising taxes". I mean yeah, technically...
posted by XMLicious at 7:53 PM on August 16, 2010


Nothing the power of prayer can't fix, I'm sure.
posted by BoatMeme at 8:15 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The National Institute of Mental Health already shifted focus from "basic" research to favor "translational" research (i.e., research that directly applies to people with mental illness), when it's the basic research--including social psych and the studies of perception and language-- that provides the foundation for a great deal of translational research. A funding cut is Very Bad News for these research areas.
posted by emilyd22222 at 8:29 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can we please cancel all the retrospective dietary studies that don't prove shit but end up as USA Today headlines?
posted by benzenedream at 8:30 PM on August 16, 2010


The NIH could save a lot of money by cutting NCCAM.
posted by lexicakes at 8:30 PM on August 16, 2010


I like to think that in five hundred years, high school history students will learn that the United States once ran a brutal global empire, starting pointless wars that killed millions -- and was partially redeemed by spending enormous sums of public money to jump-start modern biology and medicine.
posted by miyabo at 8:44 PM on August 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


The flat funding situation has been made into much more of a problem than it should be because it was preceeded by a doubling of budget. And that doubling was directed specifically towards training many more PhDs. This resulted in far more people vying for the same amount of money. And still the NIH emphasizes that grant money should mostly be used to train more scientists.

This has resulted in the postdoc purgatory mentioned in the article, a period after getting a PhD that consists of a series of short-term positions scattered across the country. God help you if your partner or spouse is also a scientist, or have extended family that needs your support; you're usually lucky if you can find a "permanent" tenure-track position by your mid-30s.

It's irresponsible of the NIH to focus so heavily and flooding the country with PhDs. There are far too many for either industry or academia. The NIH has to be willing to fund research performed by research scientists--people who have been trained but aren't dedicated to exponentially expanding the number of people that do science. This will not only make science into a career that a rational person would choose, but I would also bet that it would result in more research for the same amount of funding, as a competent research scientist is often well worth having to pay them a decent wage.
posted by Llama-Lime at 8:51 PM on August 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


NCCAM has a use in disproving the efficacy of alternative health therapies; it applies a scientific lens to the area of alternative health, and examines ideas for standardizing nutritional supplements so that their usefullness (or lack thereof) can be determined.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:21 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nonetheless, NCCAM is the first thing I thought about cutting too...
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:22 PM on August 16, 2010


Much like the CDC "funding increase" coming entirely from terrorism funding, which essentially left other projects' funding out to dry, I wonder if the NIH could save a lot of money by simply cutting bioterrorism theatre research.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:28 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's a good article from 2007 on the importance of the NIH to medical innovation: Creative Destruction (previously).
posted by homunculus at 10:38 PM on August 16, 2010


Nothing the power of prayer can't fix, I'm sure.

Or a cheap shot at Francis Collins' beliefs that has absolutely nothing to do with how he does his job, either.
posted by jhandey at 5:10 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can we please cancel all the retrospective dietary studies that don't prove shit but end up as USA Today headlines?

No, blame USA Today and the decline of science reporting.

Those types of studies have a perfectly logical and legitimate value to the research field, but the conclusions of the studies do not mean what the headline of USA Today wants them to mean.
posted by desuetude at 11:26 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nothing the power of prayer can't fix, I'm sure.

Look, I disagree with the conclusions that Collins has drawn about faith and religion, but I've never seen any evidence that his beliefs have led him to make unwarranted decisions. He's done a damn fine job as director of the NHGRI and now the NIH, and until he proves otherwise, he gets my respect and trust.

Llama-Lime pretty much covered everything else I had to say. Really, the only good news is that the biotech industry is expanding and sucking up some of the surplus PhDs.
posted by chrisamiller at 6:54 PM on August 17, 2010


Really, the only good news is that the biotech industry is expanding and sucking up some of the surplus PhDs.
Cite? I knwo thta big pharma has been decimated this year: plenty of bench chemists & biologists from europe and the us have lost their jobs.
posted by lalochezia at 8:19 PM on August 17, 2010


Biotech is a lot more than big pharma.

And given what PhDs are willing to go through for the pipedream of a tenure-track job, even big pharma has finally started to figure out that they have a ready and willing work force of research scientists whose dedication is high and standards for pay and benefits shockingly low. So, the recruiters, they are getting very interested.

(For the record, I think it's ridiculous that senior PIs have become accustomed to using postdocs as perpetual indentured servants.)
posted by desuetude at 8:47 PM on August 17, 2010


Cite? I know thta big pharma has been decimated this year: plenty of bench chemists & biologists from europe and the us have lost their jobs.

I suppose I should qualify that a little more:

1) I work in genomics and bioinformatics - my fellow students aren't having any problems finding jobs. I suppose that's always the case when you work in an up-and-coming field.

2) this is a partial comparison to, say, 20 years ago, when taking a PhD to industry was the exception, and everyone was looking solely for those increasingly rare tenure track positions. There are many more resources and options these days for people that want to make the jump out of academia.
posted by chrisamiller at 4:04 AM on August 18, 2010


NIH cannot fund embryonic stem cell research, judge rules
posted by homunculus at 6:20 PM on August 24, 2010


Stem cells, politics and the law
posted by homunculus at 6:22 PM on August 24, 2010


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