Mike the Mad Biologist

My R2.preview
As long as NIH doesn’t end the R2D2 funding mechanism, we’ll be fine. The C3PO mechanism was always a joke, however.

I’m hoping the concept that even a stopped clock is right twice a day is operative here:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) denounced on Thursday a Republican proposal to cut National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding in their long-term 2011 budget.

The House GOP budget approved in February would slash $1 billion from the $31 billion NIH budget. The White House is seeking an additional $1 billion in 2012.

“I would plead with Republicans in the House not to cut the NIH and – if anything – to increase it,” Gingrich, a likely presidential candidate, told the GOP Congressional Health Care Caucus.

No, not that. This:

While supporting more funding for the medical research agency, Gingrich said Congress should hold hearings on the NIH’s effectiveness.

“I’m not defending the current NIH model, which I think is obsolescent and minimizes progress by having too many small grants,” he said.

I don’t think the current model is “obsolescent”: we need lots of creative ideas, and the more people thinking about things, the better. But, as I’ve argued before, we do have to start thinking about how NIH can take these creative ideas and turn them into cures–or at least move them down the development chain. Typically, at some point, that’s going to require heft–R01s aren’t going to cut it. If it’s a good idea, then one should be able to ‘go large’ (or as I like to call it, go all Manhattan Project on its ass).

Rather than engaging in arithmetically illiterate circle jerks about whether researchers can ‘only’ resubmit proposals, or if they can re-resubmit proposals, we would be much better served figuring out how to make our research result in more solutions to problems, if not cures.

Comments

  1. #1 coeruleus
    April 6, 2011

    Good catch with the “too many small grants” quote. I thought that for a moment some sanity had appeared on the far horizon of Republican-land with Newt’s other statement, but alas, it shall not be so.

    Too many small grants? Erh…how’re we supposed to survive until we get those juicey R01s, Newt? Or maybe we should just give up trying and let the grey-headed senior researchers just keep on getting those grants until they die.

    Paul Ryan’s budget (not that it’s going to pass) would pretty much be the end of people like myself: 40 yrs old, we spent the last 20 yrs either paying tuition or working in low-paying (relative to our peers who did not enter science as a career) postdoc positions. They’ll cut the budget to 2008 and 2006 levels and freeze it there for 5 yrs so the payline will go down to 5%, effectively shutting us out of the funding process since we don’t have large labs yet to be able to complete everything that we would like to propose. So, the next 10 yrs of our lives will be spent scrambling to find some other line of work and re-gaining our current level of income instead of, as we’d planned, saving a little money finally. Then, 15-20 yrs after that, when we’d like to retire, there’ll be no Medicare or Social Security to keep us alive.

    Heh, and they wonder why we don’t vote Republican!

  2. #2 coeruleus
    April 6, 2011

    Good catch with the “too many small grants” quote. I thought that for a moment some sanity had appeared on the far horizon of Republican-land with Newt’s other statement, but alas, it shall not be so.

    Too many small grants? Erh…how’re we supposed to survive until we get those juicey R01s, Newt? Or maybe we should just give up trying and let the grey-headed senior researchers just keep on getting those grants until they die.

    Paul Ryan’s budget (not that it’s going to pass) would pretty much be the end of people like myself: 40 yrs old, we spent the last 20 yrs either paying tuition or working in low-paying (relative to our peers who did not enter science as a career) postdoc positions. They’ll cut the budget to 2008 and 2006 levels and freeze it there for 5 yrs so the payline will go down to 5%, effectively shutting us out of the funding process since we don’t have large labs yet to be able to complete everything that we would like to propose. So, the next 10 yrs of our lives will be spent scrambling to find some other line of work and re-gaining our current level of income instead of, as we’d planned, saving a little money finally. Then, 15-20 yrs after that, when we’d like to retire, there’ll be no Medicare or Social Security to keep us alive.

    Heh, and they wonder why we don’t vote Republican!

  3. #3 becca
    April 6, 2011

    I think it is a fair assessment for someone not intimately familiar with science to look at the peer review system and say “ok, I see how this gets good science funded, but what is to prevent non-scientifically useful redundancy?” Preventing redundancy is almost entirely the job of NIH program officials, rather than the reviewers. I suspect that most are doing a good job, because rarely do I see things in RePorter that are egregious in their overlap (and intelligent people can differ in how much repetition *is* scientifically desirable to ensure reliability of knowledge). But it’s not a transparent decision making process.

    I also think it is fair for someone who *is* intimately familiar with science to look at the peer review system and say “ok, I know ‘innovation’ is officially an important trait, but it correlates so poorly with overall impact and eventual funding, and the system is set up to be so conservative, that I don’t know if we’re remotely close to optimizing it… what information would we need to actually predict innovation, or is it just intrinsically impossible to have any prediction power in terms of what will be valuable, as is sometimes argued?”

  4. #5 altın çilek
    April 6, 2011

    Heh, and they wonder why we don’t vote Republican!

  5. #6 Cranky Misanthrope
    April 6, 2011

    Apply Occum’s razor: Newt is getting old and is afraid of dying. Money to NIH may keep him alive. If its in my interset, there can be no conflict.

  6. #7 Comrade PhysioProf
    April 6, 2011

    Too many small grants? Erh…how’re we supposed to survive until we get those juicey R01s, Newt?

    AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! Dumbasse, the “too many small grants” Gingrich is talking about *are* the R01s!!!!!!!!!

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