Ok, ok, so we helped the “international community” bomb the shit out of Libya in service of the “no fly zone” set up to help the opposition get rid of international all time leader in the Nutcase Autocrat division, one Moammar Kadaffi. In the opening salvo, we apparently sent an asstonne of Tomahawk ship to surface missiles over to knock out various Libyan things. Go us.

Wikipedia claims that each tomahawk cruise missile costs $756,000 in FY2011 dollars. This article claims that we launched 112 of these bad boys, but also goes on to estimate the cost of the ‘long-range’ variant at a cool $1M, maybe $1.5M. NPR comes in with a $100M ballpark for that first salvo as well.

Round numbers, I likey. What I don’t so much likey is the following.

One standard 5-yr, full modular NIH research grant proposal runs $1.25M in direct costs. Add on the consensus state university 55% overhead and we’re talking just under $2M. For FIVE years of work. On a problem of lasting importance to human health or biological understanding. And we dropped FIFTY of those babies off on Libya all in the span of, what, an hour or so?

For what? mind, you, it ain’t like we knocked off Kaddaffi with this. Oh no. We just blunted his ability to knock our planes out of the sky as we enforce a no-fly zone. We’re just getting started in terms of expenses, my friends.

Here’s a thought. Why don’t we just randomly drop FIFTY R01-sized projects on dictatorial megalomania, social control and democratic grass roots revolution onto our social scientists? Hmm? It can’t help but be at least as productive as this.

On more than one occasion I have expressed confusion when the NIH reveals a bit of data or enacts a policy change based on something or other…and gives out the impression that the related emergent behavior of their systems has been a complete and utter mystery to them up to that point.
One pertinent example is the creation of the Early State Investigator category out of the previous omnibus New Investigator category. In each case it refers to someone who has never served as the PI of a major NIH research grant before. The idea was to make sure that newcomers to the system weren’t being totally blocked by the Good Old Boys and Girls who already enjoyed the NIH largess. I first served on a study section before they created the ESI category and I can tell you it took about half a day for me to realize what time it was. Namely that the “NI” apps that were most competitive were from highly established senior investigators who just didn’t happen to have previously needed NIH funding. Perhaps they were career NSF-grant folks. Or had made their careers in foreign institutions and had only recently moved to the US. But “New”, they most certainly were not.

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