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Author Topic: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.  (Read 1047 times)

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Offline DarklingAliceTopic starter

Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« on: February 16, 2011, 03:11:10 PM »
So, as many of you in America know, we have a budget problem. Regardless of your political affiliation, I hope you have the wisdom to see that cuts to research (~70 billion of an ~3,500 billion budget) are not the way to go about fixing it. Firstly, cuts like these are too small to have any kind of impact on the problem; and secondly, the only way we are going to wind up saving money (oh, and lives) in the long term is to continue funding research into more efficient and practical methods to carry out vital functions.

So I hope you can see why the recent House decision to attempt to cut the NIH budget is...misguided at best. And I hope that you can spare a bit of time to spread information and make your opinion known. Dr. William Talman of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, has written a passionate plea:

Quote
    Dear Colleague,

    For months the new House leadership has been promising to cut billions in federal funding in fiscal year (FY) 2011. Later this week the House will try to make the rhetoric a reality by voting on HR 1, a "continuing resolution" (CR) that would cut NIH funding by $1.6 billion (5.2%) BELOW the current level - reducing the budget for medical research to $29.4 billion!

    We must rally everyone - researchers, trainees, lab personnel - in the scientific community to protest these draconian cuts. Please go to [this link] for instructions on how to call your Representative's Washington, DC office today! Urge him/her to oppose the cuts to NIH and vote against HR 1. Once you've made the call, let us know how it went by sending a short email to the address provided in the call instructions and forward the alert link to your colleagues. We must explain to our Representatives how cuts to NIH will have a devastating impact on their constituents!

    Sincerely,

    William T. Talman, MD
    FASEB President
This is not a partisan issue. The NIH runs 27 distinct institutes dedicated to all aspects of health and provides a considerable boost to all scientific research in this nation. AIDS, Cancer, Mental Health, Drug Abuse, Environmental Health, Geriatrics, and many more. They even do open minded research into complimentary and alternative health. Know it or not, the NIH has touched your life, and will continue to do so. They can save many lives in the future (maybe even your own), but not if we let congress turn them into a (purely symbolic) sacrifice. Are tax cuts and bloated military spending really worth less resources, talent, and funding to the research that will keep us from stagnating as a country?

Further Reading:
http://scienceblogs.com/isisthescientist/2011/02/a_message_abotu_proposed_cuts.php
http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2011/02/the_nih_threatened.php

Offline alxnjsh

Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2011, 03:54:40 PM »
I wholeheartedly agree. As a recipient of National Institute on Aging funding, I can only add to the voices of thousands of researchers current aghast at the GOP's proposal.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2011, 04:06:46 PM »
I'm hoping (the cynic in me aside) that this is a ploy to leverage other programs open for budget cuts but looking at the leadership in play I doubt it. I suspect (cynic agreeing) that this is regarded as 'fair play' since other progams are too big in the media's eye to hunt.

Offline Jude

Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2011, 07:37:09 PM »
If these cuts would only apply to the NIH's alternative medicine research (or at least those studies that analyze things with mechanisms that have zero plausibility) I think I'd support them.  That's literally the only reason I'm iffy on the NIH right now.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2011, 08:30:17 PM »
Disagree. Research should generally be peer-reviewed, but read up on the work of F. Peyton Rous. He showed that tumors can be transmissible by virus (or as close to an understanding of viruses as they got at the time, which somewhat amounted to 'something smaller than a bacteria') in 1911. He was the laughingstock of his profession for years. Years that could have been spent developing the vaccines that are now coming out for some kinds of cancer. I am not a fan of Gardasil - for personal reasons - but the research behind it was sound.

He's the best example, but he's not the only example. Research should be supervised, sure, but it really should not be stunted. :/

Offline DarklingAliceTopic starter

Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2011, 09:33:43 PM »
I wholeheartedly agree. As a recipient of National Institute on Aging funding, I can only add to the voices of thousands of researchers current aghast at the GOP's proposal.

Really should reiterate: Not a partisan issue. This particular set of cuts has been introduced by certain GOP representatives, sure. But research is not a high priority for either party; neither has a great track record with it, and neither can claim moral high ground here. Congresscreatures enslave themselves to their constituency and research is not a topic near or dear to many voters' hearts because it does not lead to immediate, visible, effects (and many voters have the attention span of a five year old). This is a trend that has to stop.

(That said, Republican congressman have tried to limit what we can do with that money more, e.g. the travesty that is Dickey-Wicker. But have not been inherently more stingy with the money itself, and neither party has been generous. The priority given to research in this country is shortsighted and insulting.)

If these cuts would only apply to the NIH's alternative medicine research (or at least those studies that analyze things with mechanisms that have zero plausibility) I think I'd support them.  That's literally the only reason I'm iffy on the NIH right now.

As long as they proceed in a proper fashion, subject themselves to peer review, and research ethically, I have no problem with them. Worst case scenario: they spend a lot of time generating negative results that only strengthen the argument against these therapies. Best case scenario: they actually find something useful. Now you can argue that they might need to be better supervised, or held to exacting standards, but to let alternative health claims go completely untested demonstrates laziness and a lack of a scientific curiosity (not to mention a willful negligence towards people likely to be duped by the large number of frauds operating in the alternative health world). Do I think they are likely to turn up positive results? No. Do we need to make sure? Yes. Axing the institute doesn't help anyone.

Offline Jude

Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2011, 10:17:27 PM »
Testing alternative medicine is important, but we need to do it in the framework of science-based medicine not evidenced-based medicine, which is what the NIH's Alternative Medicine studies have been focusing on.  There have been a lot of crappy publications on things like acupuncture which simply do not take mechanisms, plausibility, or even the placebo effect into account.  I'd be OK with keeping that particular section open if the culture changed over there, but I doubt it's going to.

Offline mystictiger

Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2011, 10:33:44 PM »
It was rather interetsing to read the the Senate's own report on the NIH.

Devil's Advocate Mode Engaged
That having been said, is direct government funding the best way to conduct this kind of research? This is aboslutely a partisan / ideological question.

What is a government for? To do scientific research that could well have a direct economic impact? To do things that could equally have been done by equivalent commercial interests? The above link makes the point that the NIH provides a 30-40% return on investment. Why should the government even invest in such things when the it is the job of the markets to invest and the job of the government to fund that which can't be easily funded by the private sector. Like defence.

Also, having had to deal with the NIH on a professional basis of late, their bureaucracy is impressive and byzantine - even worse than the FDA and equivalent EU / UK bodies. And their 'innovative approaches to Alzheimer's Disease research'? Pfeh. Amyloid all the way. Garbage.

Offline DarklingAliceTopic starter

Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2011, 01:36:40 AM »
mystictiger, this thread was made to raise political awareness for a specific, immanent House bill for the benefit of the American voting public. I do not appreciate attempts to derail it into a platform for pontificating on your philosophy of government, which is irrelevant to the issue at hand. If you want to talk about that, please make your own thread.

Offline mystictiger

Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2011, 02:11:16 AM »
mystictiger, this thread was made to raise political awareness for a specific, immanent House bill for the benefit of the American voting public. I do not appreciate attempts to derail it into a platform for pontificating on your philosophy of government, which is irrelevant to the issue at hand. If you want to talk about that, please make your own thread.

You present only one side of the argument, and assert that it is not a partisan issue. You are either uninformed about the recent changes that have occured in the American Senate, or are you are willfully misrepresenting this. You merely assert that all the NIH does is good. If you do not want discussion of the topic, you are posting it in the wrong topic

Quote
So I hope you can see why the recent House decision to attempt to cut the NIH budget is...misguided at best. And I hope that you can spare a bit of time to spread information and make DarklingAlice's opinion known
« Last Edit: February 17, 2011, 02:17:37 AM by mystictiger »

Offline DarklingAliceTopic starter

Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2011, 08:49:16 AM »
Don't be petulant. This has nothing to do with the Senate. This has nothing to do with whether or not the organization should exist at all. This has nothing to do with your ideas on the fundamental nature and responsibilities of government. This is about one specific House Referendum and is an attempt to raise public awareness for a specific issue.

And the call for opinion was a call for Americans to give their opinion to their congresspeople. And yes, I am aware that any given person's opinion might not reflect mine. I still encourage their political action and involvement in this issue. This is not a call for debate and I do not appreciate your attempts to make it one, or your insistence that it should be. You want to make a thread on the role of government re: health? Or about the NIH and the Senate? Fine. That's not what this is about. Don't dog mine and don't attack me.

Offline alxnjsh

Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2011, 09:28:17 AM »
If these cuts would only apply to the NIH's alternative medicine research (or at least those studies that analyze things with mechanisms that have zero plausibility) I think I'd support them.  That's literally the only reason I'm iffy on the NIH right now.

A surprisingly significant amount of medical advances have occurred because of testing of "alternative medicine" techniques. In fact, our health care system in the United States is so entangled with drug companies, I would support the opposite. A recent study, for example, cited that a quarter of individuals on anti-depressant drugs don't even have a psychiatric diagnosis. What else could be helping these people besides popping a pill? Cut funding for drugs and increase funding for other legitimate forms of treatment.

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Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2011, 10:54:52 AM »
So I hope you can see why the recent House decision to attempt to cut the NIH budget is...misguided at best. And I hope that you can spare a bit of time to spread information and make DarklingAlice's [sic] opinion known

You are, of course, welcome to write to your own Congressional Representative and make your own opinion known.  Everyone is.  By bringing this topic up, DarklingAlice is alerting the reader to the fact that this budget cut is even being proposed - something that many people here might not have known that they have the opportunity to weigh in on and to have their own, personal beliefs conveyed to their Congressional Representative.

Congress is supposed to work for their constituents, but they cannot do that unless they hear from their constituency, either through voting at the polls or through direct contact (mail, email, phone, etc.).

Knowledge is power.  Voting is power.  Involvement is power.

Offline mystictiger

Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2011, 11:41:02 AM »
Now that this thread is in the place it belongs (one for information rather than debate) I think it's an excellent idea. I fear, though, that in a time of austerity that 'soft' targets will always get hit. It is far easier to spin a cut in research funding than it is a cut in, say, defence funding. Most people on don't really care about such matters.

The way that the NIH has contributed to the quality of life not just in the US but in the whole world makes this apathy shocking. Legislators know that it's easier to cut research funding than it is to close a base. The direct, present impact on jobs is far smaller. The long term impact only happens over the horizon of the next election cycle. One decently funded research group of 5-10 people can easily consume several million dollars a year. There is also an assumption bureaucracy of any kind is bad, and that civil servants are somehow living high on tax-payer's money when the hard-working Joe / Tommy is unemployed.

The way, to my mind at least, to inform people about the value of the NIH is not through letters from technocrats or words from people with an obviously vested interest. Then it becomes easy for the tawdry pushers of such pernicious cuts to say "Oh look at these rich, educated scientist types who've never done a decent day's work in their lives complaining when their pork is cut a bit".

The UK has 'had' to follow similar measures, slashing public funding for research in general, not just health-related issues. The politicians here presented it as a choice between jobs and blue-sky research, or that it will encourage market-useful inventions, create jobs and investment. This is, at least in the UK, part of an ideological attack on Big Government.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2011, 04:30:46 PM »
I've moved the topic back to P&R at OP request. Having reviewed the thread, I feel this is an appropriate place for it.

That said, the civility train is currently rocking pretty hard and I would like you guys to slow down and take some breaths before you shake it off the rails.

Thank you. :)

Offline mystictiger

Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2011, 05:11:42 PM »
If this thread belongs here, then it is entirely appropriate to question the OP's assertions.

Quote
This forum is for discussing political climates, religion, and other controversial topics.

It is therefore entirely appropriate to question the basis and bias that the OP has. If the OP does not want to discuss the political climate in which the decision is being made, then the OP should post it elsewhere. Now, if the OP regards any disagreement with it as being "petulant" and does not welcome alternative views, then the OP should not post here. If the OP is unwilling to acknowledge that there is a different view to the OP's own, then it is definitionally not a contraversial topic. It saddens me that the OP is so blinded by their own agenda that they regard any discussion about the political context of this bill to be 'pontificating'. The kind of analysis that can be produced without looking into the reason why one would propose such legislation would be stunted and meaningless - to the effect that "yes, it is a bill. End of discussion".

The alternative view that the government shouldn't fun research that private companies can, and indeed do, do. Further, that government shouldn't fund a needlessly complex bureaucracy in which a sizeable chunk of tax is spent on duplicated administrations.

Why is this relevent? Because you cannot have a meaningful discussion about proposed legislation without asking why someone would propose it. To refuse to engage in that level of analysis is to be worse than the politicians that peddle the kind of line about these cuts being necessary to trim the fat from an entity. This unbalanced approach is making the (entirely baseless) assertion that the current regime is perfect. Having blind faith in the institution of government serves no-one. It's the kind of "You're with us or against us" Bush dichotomy that seeks to paint the world in black and white when reality is so much more nuanced.

Forcing the NIH to restructure and to adopt a different approach might actually improve things rather than the accademic turf-war that currently exits
« Last Edit: February 17, 2011, 07:42:51 PM by mystictiger »

Offline RubySlippers

Re: Say NO to NIH Budget Cuts.
« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2011, 05:23:18 PM »
There is a point to be made this is just cutting some funding its not shutting down the NIH, private interests can and do also fund research all the time. They may just need to decide on how to reduce some of the expenses to focus on what is most pressing such as research into antibiotics its not really a big moneymaker for drug companies so the government should fund this and not something not so immediately valuable to human life.