No one has the right answer! Everyone's proposals to fix the NIH funding situation boils down to give money to folks like "me" and fuck everyone else. So I have to agree with Odyssey's premise, maybe the current system is as good as we get. Maybe, the current system just cannot function properly when it is heavily taxed by an expanded investigator pool and a not enough resources to support them.
A shift to a HHMI style process is quite ludicrous as HHMI could never exist in a vacuum without the NIH and as Drugmonkey posits, the scalability of this is laughable at best. And once again you create a very insular version of science that looks more like a circlejerk amongst friends that limits the playing field even farther.
Is the answer that there is no answer and that we but here to play the game, trying to adapt and survive each day, while trying to make incremental beneficial changes to the system? Fuck it I don't know, but I know its not Germain's plan. To me there is a macabre but reassuring thought that all of us, the good, the bad, the riff raff, and (to some extent) the BSDs are all being crushed under the same terrible wheel. It could be that is the justice of the system, when the times are tough, to some extent we all bleed together.
I know with the whole government shutdown and the tight paylines many labs are strapped for cash right now. So I'm announcing a new funding mechanism R01for$1, whereby you tell me what you are studying in one word, and if I like it I send you a dollar. Note that bacon will always elicit a favorable and profitable response. Proposals will be accepted on the standard NIH format or scrawled on to Taco Bell wrapper is also fine with me. There is no grant cycles, just forward me your proposals (read wrappers).
The center for scientific review is composed of myself, my skeevy 53 year old neighbor Dave who has an interlock device on his Ford Taurus, and Earl, my other neighbor who loves pot and the Doobie Brothers (who coincidentally none of the member are brothers). Earl isn't always available because sometimes he is tripping on mushrooms, but I should be able to find someone else.
I'll be looking forward to your proposals.
It's difficult and painful to watch researchers get the financial plug pulled on their research programs when the funding dries. One lab in particular in my department has been run on a shoestring budget pretty much since its existence but now they are digging in the couch cushions for spare change and coming up with buttons and stale ass Cheetos. The painful thing to see how this budget is starting to hamper the trainees and their projects, antibodies can't be ordered because they are too expensive, previously large scale experiments are scaled back to limit costs, etc.
This was a lab that didn't need much to get by and now they have nothing on the immediate horizon for at least 6 months to a year. Its dark days out there folks, if you've got it, be thankful for it. And if you don't, I hope you can get it.
Hat tip to Dr. Isis, for her post on the letter from FASEB asking for scientists to contact their congressional representatives to oppose the proposed $1.2 billion dollar budget cut to the NIH budget in HR1. Paylines are already tight, and between the potential 5% cut in the budget proposed in HR1 and the ever increasing cost of doing science, this would put many people out of work. I've already broken out pen and paper and am writing a handwritten letter to my congressman.
This is go time people and if you ever complain about people not getting into the fight to advocate for science, this is your chance to make a difference. Pass this on to a colleague or better yet bring it up in your lab or faculty meeting and have folks in your lab or department write letters to their representatives. Tell them what you do, how it will make a difference, how it will make the human condition a much better one. Also tell them the detrimental effects to you and those personally around you if this funding cut goes through. People laid off, studies left undone, patients left untreated. Make them see that this would be more than cutting a line item on a budget, this is about cutting the careers of many who have worked so hard to see that our lives are improved. Please take the time to communicate the importance of science funding with your congressional representative. I fear that if we do not advocate for science, and quite strongly for this manner, this will be the first of many cuts to come our way in the future.
Also check out PiT, GertyZ, Thomas Joseph, and JuniorProf take on HR1.
See the contents of the letter below:
For months the new House leadership has been promising to cut billions in federal funding in fiscal year (FY) 2011. Later this week the House will try to make the rhetoric a reality by voting on HR 1, a "continuing resolution" (CR) that would cut NIH funding by $1.6 billion (5.2%) BELOW the current level - reducing the budget for medical research to $29.4 billion!
We must rally everyone - researchers, trainees, lab personnel - in the scientific community to protest these draconian cuts. Please go to [this link] for instructions on how to call your Representative's Washington, DC office today! Urge him/her to oppose the cuts to NIH and vote against HR 1. Once you've made the call, let us know how it went by sending a short email to the address provided in the call instructions and forward the alert link to your colleagues. We must explain to our Representatives how cuts to NIH will have a devastating impact on their constituents!
William T. Talman, MD