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
Thursday, April 27, 2006
All I understand about Mr. Bush's brain is in this post.
All I understand about Mr. Bush's brain is in this post.
Posted by SM Schwartz at 12:08 AM
Monday, April 24, 2006
The Next Big Thing
First it was Ron Sims, our County Executive, now it is David Brewster, Founder of the Seattle Weekly and the Town Hall forum. "We need to fix Seattle Center.!"
Sighhh!!!!!!! This confuses me. Both Sims and Brewster are smart and liberal. Both value the Seattle style of life. Both have achieved a lot in their respective domains as public citizens. So there must be something to this new cause more than another effort to add more tasteless, ticky tacky high rise condos to the north end of the Seattle Peninsula while enriching Paul Alan.
Sims and Brewster are, of course correct, that the Center is not a great place. In a city built on in spectacular views, the Center sits in a sort of shallow pit under downtown's towers. Queen Anne Hill and even the Manhattan Westside redux of the Denny regrade all throw shadows on the remnants of the 64 World's Fair. I have wondered whether a good rainstorm might not overfill lake Union and turn the Center into a lovely lagoon? No wonder the seers of the sixties found this underused land as an ideal spot for a World's Fair.
Like most World Fairs, Seattle's fair was based on build it cheap fantasy pavilions. Little remains of that era except the USA pavilion by Yamasaki .. today's mediocre science museum. Otherwise the grounds are a pastiche of left over tiny rooms, an old armory, an aging sports arena and a retired armory now filled with the same food chains as the food court at the Bellevue Mall.
Sims complains that the assemblage of small rooms provide a too cheap venue for impecunious groups wanting a meeting place. "Too cheap?" from a liberal? Ron needs a lesson in his own origins and perhaps the Center's inexpensive venue need publicity of it is available for so little.
The reasons for the Center's underuse are, at least to me , obvious. In its early days the Center grounds house a while lot of small town functions appropriate for what was a lot more small town-ish city. As Seattle grew, the Center became ringed by venues for the performing arts, at least on the North side but all of these have their front entrances OUTSIDE the Center ,,, mainly on Mercer. The Center grounds are a sort of underused backyard to the begowned opera goers. The to the East we have the Arena, home to the basketball team. The main entrance, once again, is outside ... You can come and cheer the team and never see the International Fountain.
So ... you do need to walk on the grounds to get to the IMAX or the science museum or the diminutive Children's Museum but the main reason for walking on the grounds is the weekly ethnic festivals. If it is February, it must be time for the Macedonian Dance Festival! Actually, this is one of the most charming things in Seattle and the admin activity ever weekend at the Center ... Greeks, Jews, Manchu and people-named-Kelly. I think there may be more than a glimmer of hope for building these weekly folk festivals into something much more attractive and permanent .. see below.
The Center also houses two big festivals each year ... as summer begins and ends. But, other than these tiny ethic affairs, the Center lacks magnets ... what entrepreneurs call anchors or destination attractions. The center is pretty and green but it lacks the museums, shops, or activities that might entice the Seattle Rep theater member to venture for a pre-Ibsen walk, maybe with a beer and a sandwich.
Unfortunately, there is a history here. The Seattle Art Museum once had a great modern art gallery here .. since closed for the venue downtown with its JC Penney-esque design by Venturi. What a shame. The SAM is an ugly building, a tribute to bad taste but it is near the dollars of down town business types. Obviously their clout overcame any good sense one might hope a City would show. Next came the Conventions Center. Seattle's hoteliers insisted that NO city could have its Convention Center remote from the bedrooms ... even a short monorail ride away. Thus we now have all these cheap meeting rooms Mr. Sims' derides.
The pattern of not using the Center goes on and on. What else? Headquarters for the Seattle Public Schools ... in an industrial district to the south of Seattle, African American Museum ... in a wrecked and now remote unused school building. Is there a message here?
Why can't the City make the Center the default location for attractions .. esp small museums? Why not begin by moving the Burke museum from the UW Campus to the Center? The Burke is a messy museum .. confused between three roles .. dinosaurs, Pacific Peoples, and our indigenous culture ..the coastal people who gave us this City and its great artistic heritage. Move it, split it into three! The pacific peoples and indigenous collections could begin a new role for the Center as a home for Seattle's cultures. Perhaps the African American community would give up the Coleman School? Imagine museums to honor the descendents of Maimonides who led the Island of Rhodes Jews to Seattle almost a hundred years ago or the Japanese Americans with their WWII history. Or how about our "new" Seattlites ... the Thai and the Hmong? Seattle could have something quite unique, a center of gravity reflecting our wonderful diversity.
Or ... we could spiff the place up, make beer drinking in public legal, and offer free rent to the old clothes shops and petit bourgeois art shops being forced out of Fremont as that neighborhood moves upscale.
Or ... we could ask Mr. Disney what ideas he has.
Posted by SM Schwartz at 8:25 AM