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Urgent News Regarding Scientific Funding

Wise Young wisey at nyc.pipeline.com
Sat Jun 3 00:32:24 EST 1995

In article <3qiufc$i2c at charm.magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu>, Peter Laudrup
>It is argued that research is an investment and will be paid back 
>as the cost of treatment goes down. I need help here: isn't 
>treatment a private (/insurance) issue? 
@ Treatment is not just a private/insurance issue.  The government pays
more than $600 billion per year for medicare, medicaid, and
disability/welfare costs.  Health care reform will have a limited ability
to stem these costs.  Effective treatments are the only means of truly
reducing health care costs.  The government currently spends $11 billion
per year on NIH, about 2% of costs, a ridiculously low level. If research
reduced the rise in medical care costs by even 10%, the government would
receive a five-fold return on the investment.  Not to invest is to be
penny-wise and pound-foolish.   
>I think the scientific community will be far better off facing the facts. 

@ The facts are that the government is spending far more money on defense
than on biomedical research; in fact, about 25 times more.  The Department
of Defense just announced a request for contracts on a new generation of
attack submarines with an anticipated price of $60 billion.  It is not a
matter of no money but a matter of priorities.  The scientific community
should face the facts.  Unless we educate the public and the government
that what we do has more value that attack submarines, the research budget
will be cut. 
>There will be a cut - let's try to make it a 'good' 
>one. If we turned to our representatives and agreed that a 10% 
>cut is fair, we will carry our load in this matter, and then 
>argued that the freeze on future funding might be hard to deal 
>with, I think our voice would be respected more. A serious 
>negotiation instead of a headless protest.  
@ Your position is a little like asking a person pointing a gun at you to
shoot your hands first rather than your head.  It is not a matter of
respect.  It is a matter of education, of convincing the person pointing
the gun that you have value and therefore should be nurtured and supported
rather than be shot. 
>In this way it would be possible to push for legislation that encourage  
>the suggested private investments. 
@ Are you seriously advocating that biomedical research be funded more by
the pharmaceutical industry or insurance companies?  Experience and history
shows that NIH-funded research has been qualitatively better and more
efficient than applied research carried out at most pharmaceutical
companies.  Senator Harkins had a much better idea last year.  He proposed
setting up a National Health Care Trust Fund that would take 1% of the
proceeds that the U.S. government spends on health care and add this amount
to the NIH budget and medical training.  The scientific community should
speak up in favor of this proposal. 
>Let us then turn our efforts inside. A lot of expensive equipment 
>is idle in one lab, while another lab is buying new. We could 
>optimize the scientific process, which would speed up progress 
>and probably save about 10%. 
@ It is a fallacy to suggest that a 10% cut would affect only "expensive"
equipment.  In the neurosciences, NIH funding levels have been at or just
below inflation level for nearly the entire Decade of the Brain.  Less than
15% of grant applications are currently being funded.  Even the most
meritorious grant applications are typically cut 20-30% before being
funded.  Nearly all scientists that I know are on "survival" mode, holding
back on innovative experiments and spending much of their time resubmitting
grants.  Hundreds of thousands of researchers, technicians, fellows, and
students would lose their jobs and leave academia.  The industry that
supports this research will be hurt.  More important, the proposed cuts
will destroy the momentum of the greatest intellectual effort in human
history.  If the United States were at war or we are undergoing depression,
one might be able to argue for cutting NIH.  But there is neither a war nor
a depression.  
We have an obligation to speak out and protest such stupidity in our
Wise Young, M.D., Ph.D. 
Professor of Neurosurgery, Physiology, & Biophysics 
NYU Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016 

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