Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NPR covers funding woes (updated)

I've been on a bit of a hiatus due to a spike in the number of work-related responsibilities and outside matters demanding my time and attention. For example, my wife--the ever-patient Mrs. Grantslave--and I were distracted the last few weeks preparing to ship our oldest child off to college. This bittersweet (for the parents) life-cycle event has now come and gone. I won't drop any clich├ęs about time passing quickly as one gets older, but it does.

I've been linking to reports and editorials concerning biomedical funding issues, and, in this regard, I wanted to be sure to link to this NPR report. It's of interest, first, because of NPR's stature as a national news organization and its influential audience, and, second, because it's well-reported. I was pleasantly surprised, for example, that the report includes a quotation that directs attention towards the large degree of culpability of the biomedical research establishment itself--including the NIH, universities and other major research institutions--for the current gloomy funding environment:
It seemed like great fortune when the NIH budget soared more than a decade ago. "Unfortunately, a lot of research institutions and medical schools were hogs to the trough," Burke says. "They hired a lot of people and built a lot of buildings with the expectation that that would continue. And when that flattened off, and started losing money to inflation, the institutions were essentially bloated."
There was nothing on soft money salaries and how they greatly magnify the impact of funding constraints and the overall level of gloom, but have a look for yourself: the NPR story is a nice, concise introduction for lay people to the current NIH funding situation.

UPDATE:  I see now that this story is part of a series by NPR's Richard Harris on the ugly NIH funding environment. The title of the next installment is kind of depressing: When Scientists Give Up. Not sure I want to listen or read the transcript, but the first episode was promising enough that I guess I'll eventually get around to reading the whole series.