Lobbying for the NIH FY10 Budget

Research Means Hope (also on Facebook), a coalition seeking sustained growth in NIH funding and other federal support for biomedical research, has developed a nice Web portal for communicating your concern over the NIH FY10 budget appropriation with your Congressional delegation. In addition to formatting both electronic and print letters to your House and Senate representatives, the Web form provides a canned letter body, suggests factoids for customizing your letter, and encourages you to add personal anecdotes. I’m sure your favorite professional society likewise has such a form letter available as well.

Of course, just in time for this process, a new report in PNAS whose “analysis shows consistent non-linear temporal correlations of funding to mortality rates across diseases” and, as summarized by Nature News, suggests that the past 50 years of NIH funding have “helped to avert up to 1.35 million deaths per year from four chronic diseases: cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.”

Now, given the nature of the paper, the funding citation for this work is, unfortunately, incorrect. The PNAS footnote refers to simply AG01159 –31 (no mechanism prefix), which RePORTER identifies as R01AG011595 (Blood Pressure, Cognitive Function & MRI in Older Adults), which seems to have limped along after only 6 years of funding on no-cost extensions from 1994 until 2003 under the direction of Iris Goldstein at UCLA. However, slipping in an extra “0” after the IC abbreviation returns the correct long-standing award to the lead author, Kenneth Manton: R01AG001159, Demographic Study of Multiple Causes of Death (funded through March 31, 2009 with a supplement last year and no doubt a pending competitive renewal (no A1s or A2s in the entire history – impressive).

3 Comments »

  1. D said

    I am always skeptical of these correlative studies especially when they FIT my preconceived notions. I get even more skeptical when a convenient excuse is found for something (diabetes) that doesn’t follow the pattern.

    Their justification for how decreasing deaths can help society and the economy is lame, lame, lame. You save lives and better human health because human life has inherent worth and meaning not to have more worker drones working longer to increase the tax base. We could always keep the NIH budget flat but let in more immigrants to increase the workforce.

    I don’t doubt that NIH funding has improved the health of hundreds of millions. I just don’t like science funding justified by an assured end point. In 10 years deaths from disease X will start to decline.

    As Cary Gross is quoted as saying in the Nature News article, “The inference of this type of analysis is that scientific research is meaningful and economically important if it directly translates to better health,” he says. “The opposite of that argument is that if scientific research does not directly relate to health, then it’s not important.”

  2. D, what you are saying would make a lot of sense in the context of addressing normal people. However, this is about lobbying Congress. Senators and Representatives are *not* normal people, and their brains do not process information like normal people, *especially* when it comes to the budget process.

  3. D said

    Yeah. I know. But I still hate seeing science dragged into it this way. Especially because of the various “spins” (as I mentioned above) that one can put on the research depending on your ideology.

    Fortunately for NIH the money is spread widely (albeit unevenly) around the country and has lots of bipartisan support from the more liberal universities to the more conservative companies.

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