Ask and ye shall receive...more NIGMS grant data

Jul 20 2010 Published by under Grant Review, NIH, NIH Budgets and Economics

NIGMS Director Jeremy Berg posted a tantalizing graph on the relationship between the eventual voted Overall Impact score for R01s assigned to his Institute and the Significance criterion on the Feedback Loop blog. This drew some interest from YHN and writedit as well as the commentariat. Nothing like a bunch of comments to stimulate the blogger to give up some more, eh?

NIGMS-innovation.jpg
Plot of innovation and overall impact scores in a sample of 360 NIGMS R01 applications reviewed during the October 2009 Council round. [source]

Director Berg has a new post up in which he posts additional correlation graphs. He ends with this comment.

The availability of individual criterion scores provides useful data for analyzing study section behavior. In addition, these criterion scores are important parameters that can assist program staff in making funding recommendations.

So let us connect the dots just a little bit. Remember this older post in which Director Berg came by to link us to the NIGMS data on grant awards by percentile rank? And on question indicated that as far as he knows his Institute is the only one to publish grant review data?
So I think Director Berg is probably pursuing a bit of an agenda to try to speak to other ICs of the NIH about the value of evaluating (and publishing) grant review outcomes.
Here's where you come in. Nothing like traffic and comments on the NIGMS Feedback Loop blog entries that are of interest to this readership to help support Director Berg's case. We scientists actually care about what they are doing and we pay attention. We seek to talk to others about their grant outcomes to refine our understanding of the process. And the most junior of us are the most needing of info...and yet the most to sea because they don't have as many connections.
I submit that it will actually make the POs jobs easier if we have data instead of half-baked rumors and above-the-waterline partial view. Go comment!

36 responses so far

  • Minus Grantee says:

    “Director Berg is probably pursuing a bit of an agenda to try to speak to other ICs of the NIH about the value of evaluating (and publishing) grant review outcomes”
    Indeed, it is an agenda to be applauded and emulated. Apart from reflecting the effort and practice of transparency it allows for a continuous input/feedback by the scientific community on the review process and review outcomes. It is a practical dimension of a required and expected “quality control”.
    Thank you Dr Berg.

  • Gruffi Gummi says:

    IF NIGMS does not fund innovative science, THEN NIGMS funds academic welfare. Now start bashing me. 🙂
    (from my personal experience, NIGMS is not at the bottom of the tank, and still - the poor correlation between the innovation and funding is troubling; imagine the crap that goes on at NIAID, for example...)

  • whimple says:

    Part of me applauds the effort at transparency, but part of me gets nervous at the way transparency of the mechanics increases the opportunity to able to game the system.
    I think the NIH should full-Monty the transparency: for each funded grant, publish the entirety of the grant and the entirety of the reviews. Confidential information could be redacted. They could do this either at the time the grant was initially paid, or if that's too radical, at the conclusion of the overall grant funding period in a better-late-than-never approach. Just imagine the added value to new investigators to be able to see exactly how each kind of grant was scored matched to what exactly the content of the grant was, not to mention the consistency of review value of letting members of one study section explicitly see how other study sections are grading applications. Oh yeah, and that whole let-the-taxpayer-see-where-their-money-went thing too. 🙂
    Here's an opportunity for Director Berg to put NIGMS on the leading edge of quality application review.

  • Marvin Reed says:

    Agree that "NIH should full-monty the transparency and publish the entirety of the grant and reviews either at the initiation of grant payment or end of the granting period".
    This would be not only of great value for new/young investigators but also for established successful investigators. The scientific community, as well as the public, would have the opportunity to match and correlate public investment in ideas proposed in a grant (s) with publications and corresponding scientific/medical advances.
    Of course, not all research projects are equal in difficulty but in every project there are short-term and long-term projected advances. Publishing the outcome of this scientific/biomedical grant effort could be an educational strategy to actively engage the public in research spending and innovation.
    Access to that information has already been proposed in several forums and NIH ought to give it serious and prompt consideration.

  • I make all of my funded proposals and summary statements available to anyone who asks for them.

  • pinus says:

    That is pretty nice cPP. Lots of people don't do that.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Really pinus? Most of my more-senior folks were happy to let me have a look when I was a n00b. And I let anyone around me who wants them have a look.
    weird.
    minor correction- are you talking unsolicited or refuse when asked?
    /the strike doesn't affect commenting does it?

  • tütüne son says:

    I make all of my funded proposals and summary statements available to anyone who asks for them.

  • Augustine says:

    "I make all of my funded proposals and summary statements available to anyone who asks for them".
    That's impressive. Sound like a pioneer. You can even do much better.
    This is what I suggest: When you get close to your competitive renewal but before writing it:
    Send a Research Report/Memoir to your PO/IC on your 4/5 years funding so that NIH can post it at your Reporter folder. Everyone would have access to it (potential reviewers of your grants/publications, ICs, Advisory Councils, interested public).
    This is, for example, what you could include:
    R01-NIE-12345- Mechanistic approaches towards understanding and treatment of macular degeneration. \(\) invested (2008-2013)
    I.- Full grant description and Summary Statement
    II.- Report on Accomplishments and Challenges
    a) Conceptual, experimental and technological advances.
    b) Social groups benefiting from those advances (diseased patients, prevention and/or treatment of groups at risk, scientific and academic communities,…etc)
    c) Challenges calling for reinforcement or redirection of prior objectives.
    Having this done could have an impact on the Review Process not only at the IRG level but also when it comes to the second level of Review (IC/Advisory Council). Particularly for disputed or perhaps ill-reviewed grants (renewals). Why?. Your accomplishments and the way you address the challenges encountered during the previous granting period (being publicly accessible) could be one’s best defense on the value of your work and productivity.

  • That's impressive. Sound like a pioneer. You can even do much better.
    This is what I suggest:

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dude, this is not the suggestion box. The suggestion box is over at http://suggestionbox.gofuckyourself.com. Regardless, how the fuck is any of that shit gonna affect the review process differently when posted publicly like you suggest, as opposed to included in the competitive renewal application itself, like it already is?
    And BTW, I don't provide my funded grants and summary statements to the "interested public" because I give a flying fuck about their opinion of my work or justifying it to them. I provide them to other investigators to help them write better applications themselves.

  • Augustine says:

    Listen Comrade Physioprof,
    1) This is a suggestion box because a) I want to respond to a call for comments and b) I want to make it a suggestion box. Suggestion boxes are where people want to find and use them. Not where your dictatorial approach wants to establish them. And by the way. I do not consider of good taste visiting internet sites that ruin the English language. So, please keep those suggestions for yourself. Thank you.
    2) Your wonderful research is paid with public moneys because you promise that your scientific interests are of public health relevance. So the public has the right to know where the money goes and what are the benefits of the investment. And if you do an excellent job with our money, we are going to be very happy and ask that you get more opportunities. But if you don’t, we’d rather ask our political representatives to use it for better purposes. There are many urgent needs in this country that are being postponed to give you and others such an opportunity.
    Indeed, you should use your wisdom in writing grants to mentor younger investigators. Hopefully, not to teach them how to trick the system to keep sucking the NIH cow to the benefit of few riches.

  • pinus says:

    DM,
    It is a mix around here. Some senior folks share grants and summary statements very freely. Others are a bit less open, especially about summary statements. Me....I share any FUNDED grant with most near anybody. I have shared some UNFUNDED grants with close friends, as tools to help their grant-writing (although if they are unfunded, then who knows what they are worth)

  • Grantee says:

    "I have shared some UNFUNDED grants with close friends, as tools to help their grant-writing (although if they are unfunded, then who knows what they are worth)"
    The fact that they are unfunded is not a proof to question their worth. As a matter of fact, I had read some colleague's grants that were unfunded at the time they were submitted and whose ideas came to be fashionable ten years later.
    Reviewing a grant is not an objective activity. More objectivity could be added in the long run if, indeed, all summary statements were made public (including the triaged ones).

  • pinus says:

    Don't get me wrong, even my unfunded grants are fucking incredible. If only those foundation grant folks would agree with me!

  • qaz says:

    Marvin Reed #4 says "This would be not only of great value for new/young investigators but also for established successful investigators. The scientific community, as well as the public, would have the opportunity to match and correlate public investment in ideas proposed in a grant (s) with publications and corresponding scientific/medical advances."
    I agree that it might be of value to new/young investigators, but in my experience everyone has been glad to share grants (funded, unfunded, whatever) with friends and colleagues to help them write them. (Although I'm not sure it helps. The truth is that everyone has to find his or her own way to write a readable grant. What makes my grant work for me may or may not work for you.)
    However, I strongly disagree with the sentiment that it would be good for the public to match/correlate proposals with outcomes. These are not contracts. Science doesn't work that way. Science is about exploration, discovery, and a willingness to chase the new stuff. In fact, my suspicion is that the relationship between outcomes and proposals is tenuous at best. I would be glad to redefine grants in terms of discovery and exploration and to educate the public about how science really works. But given the remarkable lack of education about how science really works, I think letting the public simply relate grants to outcomes is only going to produce the same short-sighted do-the-next-project disaster that tends to set science back not move it forward.
    Remember, Columbus set out to find India.

  • I do not consider of good taste visiting internet sites that ruin the English language.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Marvin Reed says:

    “I strongly disagree with the sentiment that it would be good for the public to match/correlate proposals with outcomes. These are not contracts.”
    QAZ,
    Why should the public choose to put billions of dollars onto scientific/biomedical research every year instead of prioritizing other programs (education, infrastructure, unemployment….. you name it !) at a time where the resources are becoming excruciatingly limited at a global level?. Why ?.
    “Science is about exploration, discovery, and a willingness to chase the new stuff”
    Yes indeed. Nobody doubts that. And this is why all the NIH initiatives to favor discovery are to be applauded (Pioneer, Innovation Awards and so on). But science is also, and intrinsically, about accountability and returns. I mean, you don’t plan an experiment thinking that it does not matter whether it works or not, or whether your results can be replicated or safe for the public.
    I would agree that placing the wrong emphasis in outcomes (i.e. having your academic appointment absolutely dependent on number of NIH dollars) could lead people to cheat, fake data and so on in order to survive. That is not what science is about. And this is why a total transparency on why and who get NIH grants ought to be justified and public: To give as many opportunities as possible to the most capable and creative individuals but also to prevent fraud. And I said fraud because when the system gets unchecked and without proper oversight there are individuals that get funding for overlapping and, at times, identical studies whereas others are excluded. The latter is nothing to do with exploration, or discovery or willingness to chase new stuff. It has more to do with the ability and power to manipulate the system for self-serving interests. One only needs to look in the past 2-3 years at the reports on dubious research and medical practices to realize how much waste has been going on and how many excellent scientists might have been put out of work or discouraged from pursuing scientific research.
    “I would be glad to redefine grants in terms of discovery and exploration and to educate the public about how science really works”.
    Would you please elaborate on how would you do that ?. I would love to learn from you!.

  • qaz says:

    Why should the public choose to put billions of dollars onto scientific/biomedical research every year instead of prioritizing other programs (education, infrastructure, unemployment….. you name it !) at a time where the resources are becoming excruciatingly limited at a global level?.

    The short answer is because no one else will do it. There is a 20-40 year gap between scientific discovery and real impact. Businesses have to have a short sighted view because it is unlikely that they will receive the benefit from that 30 year gap. The reason the public should invest in it is that the public reaps massive benefits after that 30 year gap. The only way to get that benefit in 2040 is to invest in it today. The only way to get the benefit in 2020 of what we were working on in 1990 is to continue the investment in it.
    The longer answer is that the resources are excruciatingly limited because we have let the diseased meme that taxes are bad perseverate in our discussion. The fact is that GDP is plenty high enough to support all of the things that we want to support, but politicians are unwilling to actually look at the data and see that increased taxes and infrastructure investment (including safety nets like unemployment as well as infrastructure such as roads, bridges, internet systems, and educational investments such as science) produces increases in productivity rather than losses. So I am unwilling to say that we should wreck science just because some spineless politician isn't willing to do what is right.

    Yes indeed. Nobody doubts that. And this is why all the NIH initiatives to favor discovery are to be applauded (Pioneer, Innovation Awards and so on). But science is also, and intrinsically, about accountability and returns.

    I disagree completely. Science is about precision, accuracy, honesty, and repeatability. It has nothing to do with accountability or returns.

    I mean, you don’t plan an experiment thinking that it does not matter whether it works or not, or whether your results can be replicated or safe for the public.

    I plan experiments based on whether I think it is likely to be an interesting place to explore.

    I would agree that placing the wrong emphasis in outcomes (i.e. having your academic appointment absolutely dependent on number of NIH dollars) could lead people to cheat, fake data and so on in order to survive. That is not what science is about. And this is why a total transparency on why and who get NIH grants ought to be justified and public: To give as many opportunities as possible to the most capable and creative individuals but also to prevent fraud.

    This discussion has nothing to do with fraud. This has to do with giving scientists the room to be creative and to make discoveries.

    And I said fraud because when the system gets unchecked and without proper oversight there are individuals that get funding for overlapping and, at times, identical studies whereas others are excluded.

    Openness is a great way to check this. But the fact is that this is actually checked pretty well (as far as I understand) by internal bureaucrats at NIH.

    One only needs to look in the past 2-3 years at the reports on dubious research and medical practices to realize how much waste has been going on.

    Um... If I'm correct in what you're referring to, then these retracted papers and problematic drugs aren't coming from NIH scientists. They're coming from businesses with very clear immediate (contract-like) incentives.

    ...and how many excellent scientists might have been put out of work or discouraged from pursuing scientific research.

    And you think forcing scientists to do exactly what they propose will help this how?

    “I would be glad to redefine grants in terms of discovery and exploration and to educate the public about how science really works”.
    Would you please elaborate on how would you do that ?.

    I've proposed this before, so I don't want to take too long on it, but I believe that we would be much better served by simple sinecures. Where you pass some difficult test to get in (say by writing a proposal), which gets you your first five-years of funding. Each five years, you get evaluated based on what you've done. (No proposal, all history.) If you pass, you get another five years. If you want a second R01, you have to write a proposal. I'm happy with that second R01 being a contract. If you fail your progress for a cycle, then you need to reapply to get back into the cycle. This would give each lab one base R01 to work from, based entirely on past performance, not some future what I'm going to do.
    Remember, Columbus' critics were right - he would never have successfully reached India with those ships.

  • Florida says:

    Good to know who are the people who care about the health of others and we expect to find many of them, because in the world there are always people who care about the health of millions who suffer daily...

  • Marvin Reed says:

    QAZ,
    I like some of your ideas very much. I strongly disagree with you in some others since they appear to be deprived of the social component implicit in every human activity. But it could well be a misperception on my part. Thanks anyway for sharing.

  • whimple says:

    There is a 20-40 year gap between scientific discovery and real impact.
    Not according to the way NIH grants are reviewed.

  • julius courinho says:

    "Science is about precision, accuracy, honesty, and repeatability. It has nothing to do with accountability or returns. I plan experiments based on whether I think it is likely to be an interesting place to explore".
    We require that science be a little bit more than an intellectual entertainment.
    This can be read at Today's NY Times: Letter. Doing Research Safely
    _________________
    To the Editor:
    “Columbia Lab Halts Research Over Injections” (front page, July 17), about the injection of psychiatric patients with drugs containing potentially dangerous impurities, raises disturbing questions about how best to protect human subjects in research.
    Institutional review boards are responsible for ensuring that research is conducted safely and with integrity. Did the Kreitchman PET Center’s review board carry out these responsibilities, and were its members fully informed of safety concerns raised by the Food and Drug Administration in its 2008 review?
    Just as important, are researchers who have a personal stake in the outcomes of their own research capable of objectively carrying out quality control responsibilities? Shouldn’t quality control be the responsibility of those outside the research enterprise?
    These and other questions must be addressed. The lives of vulnerable individuals and the future of research are at stake."
    Michael J. Fitzpatrick
    Executive Director
    National Alliance on Mental Illness
    -----------------------------------
    These kind of things are happening more frequently than the seasonal hurricanes. We should not get used to them.

  • qaz says:

    Courinho #23 - Obviously, there are ethical issues that are important. I am a strong proponent of both IRB and IACUC supervision. I don't know the details of the situation described in that letter, but at my university, a researcher who used drugs with impurities in either human or animal research would run into big trouble and likely lose their permission to continue doing human or animal experiments in the future.
    Again, we come to the issue of how best to create a situation where scientists are capable of doing science *without having a stake in the outcome*. Turning grants into contracts is only going to make that worse.
    Neither human nor animal trials should be done needlessly, wastefully, or on trivial questions. The point that I was making, which I stand by, is that the definition of scientifically important should not be based on a short time line of immediate benefit to humankind. Because, in practice, scientific breakthroughs simply don't work that way.
    Whimple #21 - yes, well, maybe we should change the way NIH grants are reviewed. 🙂 More realistically, one of the things that I have found in the study sections that I've been on is that for the reviewers, "impact" (whether it be the old version of "significance" or the new version of "impact") is treated more as code for "scientifically interesting" than as "likely to cure a disease". Over the last several years, driven in large part by the same sentiment that Marvin Reed #4 expressed, the heads of NIH have been trying to move it from "scientifically interesting" to "translationally important". I think this is a mistake.

  • whimple says:

    qaz #24, why don't you work on something that is both "scientifically interesting" AND "translationally important"? I'm sure imaginative and creative people can come up with something along these lines. The academic scientific community has become too comfortable spending other people's money just doing "scientifically interesting" work. The whole notion that we can't really tell what good today's work is for 20 or 40 years is a convenient excuse for not having to actually ever do anything useful for the public that really would prefer something with a little more tangible immediacy, or at least an acknowledgement of their legitimate concerns. Remember that the entire NIH budget is discretionary spending and there are plenty of other priorities for that cash.

  • neurolover says:

    The Columbia story, as reported in the NYTimes is truly horrifying, and is going to haunt PET studies. I can only hope, in reading between the lines, that the "impurities" were highly unlikely to cause harm, and were, therefore, solely a technical concern. The trustworthiness of the info still makes the story horrifying, but the other version is even more difficult to contemplate, the one where Columbia physicians exposed mentally compromised patients to PET studies while following potentially dangerous protocols.
    I think the brain science community should be paying a lot more attention to what happened and figure out and publicize the transgression (with more scientific reliability than the NY Times. Circling wagons, or saying "I don't know the specific details" is really not good enough. If we write or read PET papers (and I read them), we need to know the details of what went wrong at Columbia.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    whimple makes a fair point qaz- how do we know thi 30-40 yr lag is not in fact a result of the system which prioritizes "scientifically interesting" and only pays lip service to "translationally important"?
    Maybe that number would be much lower if the current push for TranslationEleven had been in place during the past thirty years.

  • qaz says:

    It's possible that the 30 year lag can be broken by extended spending on "translational research". I doubt it, but I'd be very happy to be wrong. However, the 30 year number extends across pretty much all sciences for the last couple of centuries. (I once tracked down major breakthroughs back to about the 1850s. The 30 year gap held pretty steady through that entire timeline and across most of the major sciences.)
    I have no problem with working on translational research. (In fact, I do quite a bit of translational research - not because of NIH, but because some of my non-translational research turned out to have translational impact. So great, I'm willing to chase that too.)
    My problem is that there is currently no place outside of science for people to do the preparation for the translational research. Since WW2, that pre-translational research has been funded by DARPA, NSF, and NIH. The few companies that have tried it have gotten burned very badly. (Think Xerox park.) But Americans as a community have benefited from this long-view research and we will need it in 30 years. Thus it should be government funded. I think it's been a pretty successful run and I think that the new emphasis on "translational impact" (tm) is going to hurt that successful run by forcing us out the places where scientists have actually succeeded.
    Also, I think that NIH is pretty bad at the translational step. They tend to dramatically oversell what they can do (We're going to cure cancer !!111!1!). And then when they don't, people say "why should we pay you any more money?" Saying "we've made progress" just doesn't cut it when you promised to cure cancer.
    The other problem is that for a lot of problems (not all of them, but a lot of them), the translational step is a very expensive engineering problem and needs to be tackled in a very different way than the standard scientific method. I don't want to get into a big argument about hypothesis-generation vs. hypothesis-testing. But I think we can all agree that there is big methodological difference between a late phase clinical trial and early pharmacological testing. Similarly, there is a big difference between building a new deep brain stimulator and figuring out new methods for stimulating brain tissue.
    I'm not saying "trust me, my work is going to be important in 30 years". I'm saying "the stuff we have now is the stuff that we worked on 30 years ago". I'm saying that historically, saying "that's an interesting scientific question and generates new knowledge about how things work" has been a more successful measure of impact than "how is this going to help specific people in the next five years".

  • whimple says:

    So, you're saying it's actually more useful to not try to do something useful than to give it the same effort except also try to do something useful? If I want to build a car, I shouldn't try to build a car? If I want to cure cancer, I shouldn't try to cure cancer? If I want results that improve human health, I shouldn't work on humans? That doesn't make much sense to me.

  • pinus says:

    Zen science. You only find what you don't seek.

  • becca says:

    "translational impact", as it has been implemented, seems to be entirely about how you dress up your ideas (which ultimately derive from what you think is scientifically interesting). Perhaps it *is* time for a change in approach. For translational-targeted funding sources (and NIH certainly has some study sections that lean this way, although I don't think all do), perhaps we really *ought* to be evaluating grants on some outcome measures (i.e. did the researchers accomplish what they set out, and did this research impact clinical practice and reduce morbidity/mortality?).

  • qaz says:

    Whimple #29 - No. I'm saying they both have their place - building a car required developing the multi-stroke internal combustion engine. (BTW, according to wikipedia, the first viable combustion engine suggested for use in a car is 1860 and the first practical automobile is 1885. 25 years.)
    The problem is that it's often very hard to tell what's going to be important in that transition. It's very easy to dismiss basic science as not being of importance because it doesn't have an immediate obvious application. (Mathematicians playing with number theory and Bayesian statistics turned out to hold the key to cryptography and could be argued to have won WW2.) And it's also easy to say don't work on it because it won't have a fast enough return. (Again, think Xerox Park as the classic example, although there are hundreds of others.)
    In fact, a large part of the problem is that the emphasis on immediate translation leads to concepts like "If I want results that improve human health, I shouldn't work on humans?" One of the most important results for human health (according to Deborah Blum's _Love at Goon Park_) was Harry Harlow's animal experiments, which apparently led directly to changes in the NICU with absolutely amazing effects on infant survival. There's no way Harlow could have reasonably argued that his experiments would lead to increased survival in the NICU.
    So the question is how do we evaluate basic science? My point is twofold (1) that we evaluate it based on discoveries and scientific "significance" and (2) that scientific discovery is often surprising and rarely as straightforward as in a grant application.
    Translational research definitely has its place as well. But if we're not careful, we won't have anything to translate from!
    PS. I like the idea of Zen science! ... One of my favorite quotes is "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'." Usually attributed to Isaac Asimov.

  • whimple says:

    I'm not arguing against basic science. I'm arguing against not trying to maximize human relevance.
    If I want to study the mechanics of hopping as it relates to human health I have a choice: I can use my favorite model organism the bunny, or I can use humans. Bunnies are better! They're cheap, don't have to consent, can be kept under controlled conditions, can have their genetics manipulated, won't sue if experiments go tragically wrong, can be conveniently dissected etc. I spend 20 years and work out in detail all the mechanics of bunny hopping. That turns out to teach us a lot about bunnies, but about humans not so much.
    Or: I can suck it up and try harder. I can get IRB approval, I can pay human subjects, I can design my experiments carefully to minimize damage to my subjects, I can use more expensive and less convenient imaging instead of dissection. Maybe after 20 years, I haven't worked out the mechanics of hopping in humans nearly as well as what I could have done in bunnies, but what I have learned has provable human relevance.
    I think too many people are being lazy and picking bunnies to work on. I think the NIH wastes a lot of money enabling this laziness.

  • Marvin Reed says:

    QAZ,
    I think that if this post were your grant and I were one of the reviewers, I would have to say that you’ve gone a long way, since your first comment, in clarifying what are your main concerns. I could not agree more with you on the importance of basic science as the framework and platform where significant translational research has been built. I also think that all posters would agree with you on that.
    The critical issue here is where we place the EMPHASIS of our science, scientific funding priorities and what policy would be more effective in making that emphasis a reality. I think that, at this historic moment of research in the US, many citizens (highly educated citizens) are questioning, not the importance of basic research, but how to be more effective in translating research efforts into tangible benefits. I remember a conversation in my living room with friends, not scientists, discussing health issues, funding policies, NIH priorities and so on. One of them (a prostate cancer survivor) and strong advocate of alternative medicine said: Listen, what about all the money we are putting as a country into cancer research !!. Do you think that they want to find a cure?. All BS, all they want is the money………….. I felt devastated hearing that comment.
    I felt relieved the other day hearing Harold Varmus on the Institute’s plans to accelerate answers to unresolved questions with impact in finding actual cures.

  • qaz says:

    I think that, at this historic moment of research in the US, many citizens (highly educated citizens) are questioning, not the importance of basic research, but how to be more effective in translating research efforts into tangible benefits.

    Actually, I think they are questioning the importance of basic research. I think they are asking "what's in it for me?" "Why should I waste my money on your useless stuff? It has no human relevance."
    I think this is a problem with how NIH has tried to sell itself. We need to talk about the process of translation, how one moves from basic to effective clinical and how it takes 30 years. We need to talk about how scientific discovery moves in surprising ways to translational use. We need to talk Zen Science. (Thanks Pinus!)
    My worry is that I think that much of translation is better down outside of the NIH/NSF system, while basic science can't be done anywhere else. My worry is that the emphasis on translation plays into exactly the sentiment that your friend said - "where's my cure for cancer?" We need to move away from promises for the future and emphasize more the successes of the past. Laid out this way, we should be able to justify our scientific pipeline.
    And whimple #33 - my point is that studying hopping in bunnies may well have a much larger impact on humans than studying human hopping *because* you are studying the basics of how hopping actually works.

  • whimple says:

    And whimple #33 - my point is that studying hopping in bunnies may well have a much larger impact on humans than studying human hopping *because* you are studying the basics of how hopping actually works.
    I understand your point, I just think you're completely wrong.

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