Update: Science has both a letter from 14 Senators dated Feb 14 questioning the NIH’s plans to abolish NCRR as well as Collins’ response, dated Feb 16. It seems, looking at the Science piece, that Collins decided to move the IDeA program from NCRR to NIGMS without a clear go-ahead from NIGMS director Jeremy Berg … and certainly with no deliberate, transparent process of assessing the implications of such a move.
Pursuant to P.L. 109-482, the NIH Reform Act, Congress has 180 days to act on Kathleen Sebelius’ request to abolish the NCRR. It only took Senators Inouye (Hawaii) and Begich (Alaska) 18 days to voice their firm opposition to “the changes currently under deliberation” via a letter to Sebelius and Collins.
As Nature, which released the Senators’ letter notes, Inouye chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Having worked with the exceptional staff at NCRR, I completely concur with the Senators regarding their concern that “disruption of the placement and expertise at NCRR will only serve to dismantle the laudable work that has been accomplished.” NCRR folks will not be rushing to help Collins with his “Interim Infrastructure Unit“, which means these very special and complex (and currently well-managed) programs will at best stall until a more permanent home is found again, whether at an IC or in the OD or in … hmmm … perhaps a new (novel!) freestanding center to again manage such infrastructure programs in the extramural research community.
Of course, in her letters to Congress, Sebelius was acting on “information provided to me by the NIH Director” … which clearly included absolutely no detailed (or even cursory) assessment of the impact of either the abolition of NCRR or the establishment of NCATS on the rest of the NIH (or the extramural research community). Perhaps, given a bit more information after the February 23 SMRB meeting, she will realize that her determinations were premature and that more careful examination of the repercussions of both actions is needed prior to their recommendation to Congress and implementation at the NIH.