NIAAA-funded researchers need to stop whining and sack the hell up!

September 28, 2010

Someone going by Addiction Scientist dropped this comment on the Sb blog:

Unfortunately, the questionable efforts by Dr. Volkow and her staff to “market” this merger at grantee meetings (“It’s a done deal!”), despite clear directions not to do so, has really created an adversarial relationship between the scientific staff of each Institute. Many of NIAAA’s best scientists are considering leaving NIH rather than work under Volkow. It’s hard to be a creative scientist in a hostile work environment, and people are really angry with Volkow and Leshner (her predecessor at NIDA). An additional insult to NIAAA is that this merger may signal the end of a carefully developed and nurtured alcohol research community that has contributed so much to the welfare of the American people. Alcohol researchers actually have developed useful pharmacotherapeutics, behavioral treatments, technologies, and clinical tools that have actually had impact on people. Aside from a “war on drugs” under ONDCP’s auspices, its hard to quantify NIDA’s contribution, beyond the reward pathway. Even the best endocannabinoid research is supported under NIAAA. So, who will this help and how? Does Volkow really need a larger empire?

Call the waaaahmbulance.

Read my lips, Volkow can not possibly be selected as the head of a new combined Addictions Institute. Not going to happen.

It is going to have to be a person who has feet firmly planted in both alcohol research and other-drugs research.

An additional insult to NIAAA

You need to get over this “insult” business. And I mean the collective you. It is not an insult. Honestly now, if you start with the assumption that Institutes are to be merged, which other ones rise to the top of the list? Seriously.

this merger may signal the end of a carefully developed and nurtured alcohol research community

Why that almost sounds like you think that alcohol research scientists suck and cannot compete on an even footing with those who are currently under the NIDA umbrella. Who’s insulting who now?

From my limited experience serving on a study section that received grants assigned to NIAAA and NIDA my opinion is that there is no competitive disadvantage/advantage for either types of applications that we reviewed. It also happens that I know quite a number of people who have held or do hold awards from both NIAAA and NIDA.

If we think about human populations, sure maybe there is more of a tendency to specialize but c’mon. The co-morbidity issue is huge in alcohol research- so get your grants from NIMH. Also, many human users of other drugs also co-abuse alcohol- perfect opportunity to steal a march on the other-drug-focused investigators.

C’mon NIAAA-funded extramural researchers, sack the heck up!

(if you were referring to intramural researchers in your comment about ‘best scientists’ leaving, well can’t help you there. not a fan of the intramural research program)

Now, getting us back on track with the politics, we still have not heard from powerful lobby interests and their pet CongressCritters. And by “powerful”, I mean not namby pamby patient advocacy groups and the like. I mean the “beverage” industry. Brewers, distillers and vintners, oh my.

My completely unfounded suspicion is that they will be very motivated to keep alcohol from being explicitly defined as a drug like any other, which is how this is going to look.

No Responses Yet to “NIAAA-funded researchers need to stop whining and sack the hell up!”

  1. pinus Says:

    I think alcohol research folks have to see this as something to roll with….not freak out over. Time will tell what happens…when something happanes….you go with it, figure out how to make it work for you.


  2. Applicants for investigator-initiated RPGs are not competing against other grants as a function of what IC they are assigned to. Rather, they are competing against other grants reviewed in the same study section, regardless of what IC they are assigned to. Merging/splitting/abolition of study sections is a lot more important to the question of fundability of particular areas of research than the administrative structure of ICs.


  3. drugmonkey Says:

    Not quite PP. After all, NIAAA has a budget assigned to it each year. If the only grant scores they see are 25-30%ile, they’ll fund them. Under a combined institution, this would not necessarily be the case. Is the fear. Of course there would still be a protected alcohol-related budget in any conceivable merged structure. How could it not?

    -although admittedly, NIDA does have a very sordid and stupid history of putting a large fraction of their budget into some drugs of abuse (heroin, cocaine) and not others…


  4. Would not be surprised if the alcohol lobbyists manage to get it squelched. While the merger would probably go unmentioned in the press, the industry will obviously not like the association (no matter how tentative the relation might be).


  5. drugmonkey Says:

    Nature News is reporting a “no comment” response from the beverage industry

    of course they don’t need to comment because they are readying their Congressional strategy…


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