The NIDA/NIAAA merger, NCI, smoking and extramural PIs who are losing their natural minds

May 4, 2011

It is officially time to get a grip.
Over at writedit’s voluminous comment thread discussing NIH scores and paylines I ran across this gem:

rumor has it that NCI is limiting funding of new projects there, to prevent losing Institute dollars when that part of the portfolio moves to the new addiction institute

So if you’ve been following along, the NIH is planning to disband NIDA and NIAAA and launch a new Institute on Substance Abuse / Substance Use Disorders. Name is yet to be determined.
Also yet to be determined is the portfolio of such a new institute. It did not escape the attention of the sharp-eyed that there are substantial amounts of addictive-disorders related funding being handled by the NCI, a comparatively much larger Institute. So the present state of affairs appears to be an effort to take an accounting of various existing grant portfolios that are related to substance use and therefore might be best placed in the new Institute for all addiction-related science. This taskforce/working group accounting and proposing effort appears to be the latest kicking-the-ball-down-the-road strategy* for Francis Collins, Director of the NIH.

So it is not completely fanciful to suggest that NCI might be trying to preserve their turf in terms of overall share of the NIH budget but dude.
whimple makes a point:

People always look for an external reason for why their proposal didn’t get funded. My guess is the rumor about not funding tobacco-related cancers is false. The 15% of lung cancer deaths that are unrelated to tobacco still represent the 5th leading cause of American cancer deaths, behind colon, breast, pancreas and prostate (2007 SEER data). It would be impossible for NCI to argue the lack of relevance of lung cancer research to their mission, even were they to completely discount tobacco use.

I went looking over on RePORTER for NCI R01s, newly funded since Dec 1, 2010 that involve the keywords of smoking, tobacco or cigarettes and I found 12 hits (200 R01 hits since Dec 1 without the keywords).
Some appear to be tasty bait for being transferred to a new Institute, do they not?
Okay, so expanding my search to Dec 1, 2009 and subtracting the current hits I end up with 7 new R01s on the smoking keywords (151 new R01s overall) from NCI in the entire prior fiscal year. Now admittedly, 5 of those 7 seem to me to be destined for the new Substance Abuse Institute. But still. Without drilling back into the trends and searching out Type 2s and the like, we have very little reason for a total panic over this.
It is just so much more likely that with the paylines dropping like stones, alleged changes in the portfolio are due to chance rather than to intentional rebalancing.
*It is my suspicion that he views this as a distraction and legacy event which is getting in the way of his own plans to disband the NCRR and form a new Institute for translational research. Pure speculation.

3 Responses to “The NIDA/NIAAA merger, NCI, smoking and extramural PIs who are losing their natural minds”

  1. becca Says:

    Wait… so the comment is on a blog post that reports NCI has a 7% payline (which, admittedly, yeouch)… and they say that they know not one but TWO 9% grants that didn’t get funded… and the conclude the institute thus has no interest in that type of grant anymore?


  2. DrugMonkey Says:

    like I said, people are losing their natural minds over these 7%ile and falling paylines.
    It might be true and it might not, but the available evidence isn’t really supporting the paranoid view right now, imo.


  3. DrugMonkey Says:

    otoh, there is this comment which appears to be from a program officer of some sort:

    Being at one of the institutes whose portfolio is being affected, I can verify that we are generally more often deeming applications on soon-to-be-lost topics as “not in line with program priorities.”
    …potential applicants who do the NIH-recommended “consult with a PO before applying” ARE being gently advised — gently, because we are not authorized to make public statements yet, as it is always possible that NIH plans will change.


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