Friday, September 25, 2009

Your taxes at (stupid) work

I'm sure you'll be as irritated as I am to find out how the National Institutes of Health are spending our tax money.

Lawmakers in Washington are calling on the National Institutes of Health to explain why millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent on seemingly ridiculous research projects, including:

- how dragon boating can help cancer survivors;

- how canoes can help cultural identity;

- how snorting cocaine creates anxiety.

In a letter to NIH director Francis Collins, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) on Thursday demanded to know the screening procedures and review criteria used to approve $1.6 billion in stimulus grants and another $20 million in grants from the regular NIH budget.

"It's outrageous," says Walden. "It's beyond embarrassing in my book. I don't think there's enough oversight being done there."

FOX News identified more than a dozen suspect studies, many of which were funded by stimulus dollars, and compared them to Walden's research, to come up with over 30 studies that appear to be wasteful and silly -- and often on subjects who are not American.

Among those grants was $73,000 to study whether the Asian tradition of dragon boat racing will enhance the lives of cancer survivors more than just walking; $65,472 to study the relationship between HIV and sex in St. Petersburg, Russia; and $700,000 for a study that examines how taxes, trade and politics affect tobacco sales in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and other nations in Southeast Asia.

. . .

The NIH is the primary federal agency that conducts and supports medical research, but money is tight and competition is stiff. Just 9,460 of the 43,467 applications submitted - 21.8 percent - received funding in 2008.

There's more at the link.

Dragon boating and cancer? Canoes and culture? What have the NIH administrators been sniffing? (Or drinking, for that matter!)

If only 21.8% of applications for funding were approved, just what sort of influence was wielded to get these particular applications through the process? And if these are representative of what was approved, what sort of applications were turned down, for Heaven's sake?

Bureaucrats! Grrr!



Angus said...

"Bureaucrats! Grrr!" ... are you familiar with "Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy" from here:
Jerry Pournelle

In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

Also stated as: any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

Sherm said...

The scary question is, what if these were actually better than the 78% that weren't funded?

Can you imagine what had to be turned down to get these to the top?

raven said...

Those jerks turned down my proposal to study the relationship between sheer bikini fabric , rare hidden skin cancers and alchohol in the most at risk catagory, young lithe women. . This important research was to be conducted in the dangerous territories of the worlds tropical beaches and surrounding environs.

In order to gain admission into this secretive sect of sufferers, it would, of course, be nessesary to have the appropriate acoutrements such as a fancy Swiss watch, a Italian sports car (say a 1964 330 Ferrari) and wads of cash . Alas, their cry for help must now go unheard, flushed by the vast uncaring NIH.

Rachel Leigh Smith said...

Who is dumb enough to think that you need a study to tell you that you get HIV from having sex???? Sometimes I think the first requirement for working at the NIH is to flush your brain down the toilet.