In the latest round of “Do it to Julia!” we have the attention turning to the Intramural Research programs of the various ICs of the NIH. A comment over at RockTalk:

It is only fair that we apply the same rules to our intramural colleagues and administrators with large numbers of support staff/ budget. Are they being scrutinized by their peers for efficiency and non-overlap?

The impression in the extramural community is that a number of boondoggles exist in Bethesda and beyond.

triggered this response from Intramural PR flack Wanjek:

As you know, part of the mission of the intramural program is to conduct, in government laboratories, creative and innovative biomedical research that cannot easily be performed in academic research settings. Over the past 60 years, a rigorous, multi-level external peer review process has evolved to ensure that this intramural mission is fulfilled and it has been demonstrated repeatedly that this approach to review is competitive in assuring the highest quality research and training.

This triggered some skepticism in the comments including from Jeremy Berg who commented, in part:

Some extremely high-quality research is performed within the intramural program, but the notion that much of this research “is not being done or could not be done elsewhere” seems hard to support. In addition, intramural research budgets are, in general, quite generous.

And therein lies our discussion point for the day, people. For your fields of study, 1) do you know any Intramural players and 2) do you think their contributions represent any unique studies that “cannot easily” be done in the extramural setting? If you do see unique science being done, any specificity as to why it couldn’t be done extramurally is welcome.

As far as the cost goes, well, Jeremy Berg has a suggestion:

Information about the investigators in the intramural program is available through NIH Reporter (via Project Numbers containing “ZIA”).

Happy searching….