Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

A little while ago I was “tagged” by Orac of Respectful Insolence in the “How to Fix the NIH” meme. The rules to the meme were a bit laborious, and I’m not going to be so mean as to tag more innocent bloggers with the ponderous task of thinking about grants and funding institutions when it isn’t expressly necessary. So, I guess technically I cheating, but oh well.

As how to fix the NIH, well, I really don’t know. I’ve blogged about the NIH before (specifically as to the abysmal funding situation for new scientists) but I think that song and dance has gotten a little tired. And there’s the whole “biting the hand that feeds” thing. So, I decided to talk about Newt Gingrich instead, because he’s got a few ideas of how to fix the NIH. Mostly they revolve around more money (yay!).

In 2003, he founded the Center for Health Transformation (CHT) whose goal is “to attract leaders of the business community to support advocacy efforts on behalf of science and biomedical research.” Last summer, the Society for Neuroscience (which runs the biggest neuroscience conference every year) joined the CHT. In fact, Newt Gingrich is going to be a speaker at the next Society for Neuroscience meeting in the fall of this year.

Gingrich made several observations that will help us in developing these arguments in support of NIH. First, he noted that the Baby Boomer generation needs a major effort to help mitigate the impact of Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and many other devastating disorders. Second, science advocates need concrete action items conveyed with a sense of urgency. Third, greater emphasis should be placed on long-term investment in basic research. Fourth, the pharmaceutical industry would benefit by advancing an agenda that served a broad national goal. Gingrich also noted that during the time he was Speaker, Congress and the president doubled the NIH budget while working to balance the overall federal budget. So the task ahead is far from impossible.

The CHT is currently putting together a report to provide data to back up why the NIH’s budget should be increased during FY2008. One good reason is that the cost biomedical research inflation exceeds 3.5% annually. This means that the same grant is worth less and less every year (in terms of buying power) if its a multi-year grant, and that the budget would really only be staying the same if it was increased at this level.

By the way, the only D I ever got in high school was on a paper on Newt Gingrich. Let’s say I was less than glowing about him (the teacher was a fan). However, his efforts for science advocacy go a long way to improve my opinion of him. Suppose it just goes to show that people can disagree on a great many things but we are all in the same boat as to learning how to treat and cure disease.


  1. #1 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    July 15, 2007

    I cannot agree with your assessment of Gingrich as science-friendly. Check out the Discover magazine interview of Gingrich from October 2006. He is a two-faced politician.

    Q. Where do you come down on teaching intelligent design in schools? Do you think the ruling in the Dover, Pennsylvania, case was appropriate?
    I believe evolution should be taught as science, and intelligent design should be taught as philosophy. Francis Collins’s new book, The Language of God, is a fine statement that combines a belief in God with a belief in evolution. I do not know enough about the Dover case to critique the judge’s decision, but I am generally cautious about unelected judges establishing community standards´┐Żthat is the duty of elected officials.

    “Community standards”? On a question of constitutionality?

  2. #2 Rose Colored Glasses
    July 15, 2007

    What Gingrich might be up to is getting more cash to shovel into the coffers of Big Pharma, while at the same time bragging that the bigger NIH budget is serving the people wonderfully, and letting Big Pharma put their agents into positions of power to make sure this part of the government is toeing the party line.

  3. #3 Shelley
    July 15, 2007

    I also think his ideas about ID are a bunch of hooey (and a lot of his politics) however the mission of the organization is about increasing federal funding for the NIH, not an imposition of his politics on any part of the process. If we rejected money and help from everyone who we disagreed with on some issue, there might not be much funding. Just ask anyone who’s had a DARPA or DOD grant.

    Not quite sure how the organizations’ work towards increasing the NIH budget has anything to do with Big Pharma. Was the same suspicion lobbed when Clinton doubled the budget way back when?

    Its good to be cautious, but no point flippantly rejecting help towards a common goal either.

  4. #4 Minnesotachuck
    July 16, 2007

    FYI, Emptypockets at The Next Hurrah has a comprehensive post up on this topic today, complete with charts and graphs.

    Check it out.

  5. #5 Minnesotachuck
    July 16, 2007

    PS: Sorry, I keep forgetting to put the “e” before the “y”.

  6. #6 filmizle
    September 9, 2008

    FYI, Emptypockets at The Next Hurrah has a comprehensive post up on this topic today, complete with charts and graphs.

  7. #7 Searchin4Truth
    July 15, 2009

    Gingrich has a Ph.D in History. He taught as history professor at West Georgia College.

    He almost single-handedly got Rebupulicans into the majority of the House and Senate with his “contract with America”.
    Republicans hadn’t a majority in either for nearly 50 years.

    Ann Coulter, whom most of you despise has a degree in Constitutional Law.

    So, who’s smarter, you or them?

    Pay more attention to what they say and do. All though I must say Coulter was WAY better in the 90’s going after Bill Clinton than now. Now, she plays with the same rules as Democrats and seems crazier ( you can hear her chuckle when I say that) because she acts like a pushy Democrat saying conservative ideals…What’d he say???

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