Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Joe Biden is on your side...

In an article published today by CNS News, Joe Biden lashes out at individuals who complain about the merits of some NIH-funded projects. The article mentions several funded grants including a $60,000 grant to study hookah smoking in college students in Jordan. The vice president clearly supports NIH, stating in the CNS News article that those who complain about NIH-funded projects "know nothing about science". While I applaud the VP's effort to support NIH and the important work of NIH scientists, in some ways I do agree with the critics. While many projects may seem insignificant to the lay person, within their respective fields they may be contributing to ground-breaking research. Unfortunately the only easy public access to learn about funded NIH grants is through the NIH RePORTER database. This is the revised version of CRISP, and includes information about past and current projects including award amounts and abstracts. However, the database does not include full proposals or progress reports. While I understand that these may contain some confidential information such as unpublished research data, I believe it is important for the public to view entire proposals and be able to examine the progress of funded projects. An abstract does not convey the significance of a project to its field, or fully explain the path that a particular project may pave for other projects. Without this information, it is understandable that many members of the public may label some NIH-funded projects as wasteful.

Update: This post also illustrates the public outcry that can result when complete and accurate information is not made public. Though it is focused on a USAID-funded project, the same principle still applies.

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