Saturday, April 29, 2006
The editor of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Andrew R. Marks, recently wrote a provocative editorial complaining about the effects of the Bush budget on biomedical funding. Instead of blaming the Bush debacle, radical Republicans, and cowardly Democrats, Dr. Marks focused his ire:
"The current state of the NIH prompts me to say to its director, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, "Obviously you are not a scientist." "
Insulting Zerhouni, previously an accomplished admin at a very successful J Hopkins, serves no purpose. As for other comments he made disparaging "translational medicine" as a mumbo jumbo, of course I agree with Dr. Marks BUT I also do not know how this Mad Ave term has affected real funding. Congress may be more interested in mumbo jumbo than is Dr. Marks and Dr. Zerhouni just might understand the Congress better than we do.
The effects of the Bush budget on NIH are terrible, amounting to a cut of 5-10% each year in a field that is literally exploding the rate of discovery in the US and around the world. These changes are drastic in an area just emerging from a period of doubling the finding over 5 years under Clinton. Dr. Marks' scapegoat for all this, however, was not President Bush but Elias A. Zerhouni, the Bush appointed Director of NIH. I think Dr. Marks wasted an important opportunity.
The real enemy, to quote Pogo, is us.
When the funds were flowing at an impossible doubling rate, we allowed the NIH to fund grants for 1 yr at a time and an impossible to sustain funding rate,
When the MFD foundations (my favorite disease) distorted the NIH funding by great lobbying, we sat back and said little.
When the gene therapy fiasco went way beyond what made sense, the few critics of premature clinical trials were quickly silenced .... a phenom that afflicts the stem cell world now. Is the weekly stem cell hyp any more rational than the metered injections of funds to feed translational medicine?
Does ANYBODY outside of Bethesda think that the intramural program is still justified?
We accept the anti-intellectual copyright policies of the biggie journals rather than boycotting journals that deny public access to work the public paid for.
Oh yeah ... how many of us have been ACTIVE vs. the creationist foe?
I agree with Marks on one thing. Zerhouni's emphasis on translational medicine is a phony effort to curry favor with the congress. However, would Marks complain if Zerhouni's marketing resulted in increased NIH funding? Does Marks have real data on diversion of funds from basic science because of Zerhouni's effort?
The bottom line is that the Scientific Community in the US is complicit in its own problems. We need a few good, vocal leaders. We need a media that truly speaks for our community.
Posted by SM Schwartz at 4:56 PM