We are going to fix the NIH
January 28, 2013
Kate Clancy provided more context for her outrage here in this post, Kate Clancy’s Short Grant Rant: On Broken Promises:
Last night I was talking to a colleague who just heard he missed the funding cutoff for his NIH grant by a single point – a score of 19 and under was funded, and his grant was a 20. He had applied to one of the many institutes that is trying to keep the R01 afloat by reducing funding to all the other funding mechanisms – which happen to be the mechanisms used more by early career faculty because they don’t have enough preliminary data for an R01 for several years.
Michael Eisen’s promised post is here, Restructuring the NIH and its grant programs to ensure stable careers in science:
It is an amazing time to do science, but an incredibly difficult time to be a scientist.
There is so much cool stuff going on. Everywhere I go – my lab, seminar visits, meetings, Twitter – there are biologists young and old are bursting with ideas, eager to take advantage of powerful new ways to observe, manipulate and understand the natural world.
But as palpable as the creative energy is, it is accompanied by an equally palpable sense of dread. We are in one of the worst periods of scientific funding I – and my more senior colleagues – can remember. People aren’t just worried about whether their next grant will get funded, they’re worried about whether a career in academic or public science is even viable
The very first post on the DrugMonkey blog read, in it’s entirety:
Biomedical research scientists in the US (and worldwide) are bright, highly educated and creative folks. Most are dedicated to the public good, undergoing years of low pay while fueling the greatest research apparatus ever built- the NIH-funded behemoth that is American health science. Yet they persist in various types of employment stress and uncertainty for years, with minimal confidence of ever attaining a “real job”. It is dismaying to realize that by the time he received his first R01 (the major NIH research grant) Mozart would have been dead for 7 years (tipohat to Tom Lehrer). The official noises coming from the National Institutes of Health, and even some individual institutes such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (scroll for comments on the young investigator) are positive, sure. We’ve heard such sentiments before, however, and most objective measures show long, uninterrupted dismal trends for the young and developing scientist.
So yeah, my disclaimer is that I have some interest in efforts to fix some of the problems in the career arc of extramural NIH-funded science.
I anticipate that I may get even preachier than usual about these issues on the blog, encouraged by Michael Eisen’s post.
My aspiration is to damp down my tendency to snark and dismiss and exhibit a lack of patience with those who drag up the most obvious and tired points (soak the rich! too many overheads! greedy deadwood tenured jerks with 20 grants!). Feel free to hold me to that on posts tagged Fixing the NIH.
My request to you is to take your suggestions all the way down. Stand up for what you are really calling for. This means that you should identify who is going to pay the price for your fixes. What type of investigator, what generation of scientist, which types of University. Above all else, step up and admit when your policy plans
are designed to conveniently also assist your situation now, in the past or in the future. I will endeavor to do the same.
There is a very simple truism of politics that never fails.
The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease.
Step up, my friends. Step up to the plate. Go over to Sally Rockey’s blog and throw down comment each and every time there is an opening. Write a letter to Science or Nature. Blog yourself. Write comments on blogs like Eisen’s, Clancy’s or mine. When you talk to your Program Officers at various Institutes or Centers of the NIH…slip in your points about careerism.
Don’t whine. Make it about science in your subdiscipline as much as you can and about your personal situation as little as possible. Quote facts about the NIH, preferably those they have generated themselves. Make specific proposals, constructive proposals and be honest about the impacts and implications.