Saving US biomedical research

Bruce Alberts, Marc Kirschner, Shirley Tilghman, and Harold Varmus have an opinion piece in PNAS (link here) summarizing their concerns for the future of US biomedical research and suggesting some fixes. Their major premise is that medical research is predicated on an ever continuing expansion and we’re headed for a crisis if we don’t change immediately. As an NIH intramural investigator, I am shielded from the intense grant writing requirements of those on the outside. However, I am well aware of the difficulties in obtaining grant support and more than cognizant of the fact that a simple way to resolve the recent 8% cut in NIH funding is to eliminate the NIH intramural program. I have also noticed that medical schools keep expanding and hiring faculty on “soft money”, which requires them to raise their own salaries through grants. Soft money faculty essentially run independent businesses who rent lab space from institutions. The problem is that the market is a monopsony, where the sole buyer is the NIH. In order to keep their businesses running, they need lots of low paid labour, in the form of grad students and postdocs, many of whom have no hope of ever becoming independent investigators. One of the proposed solutions is to increase the salary of post docs and increase the numbers of permanent staff scientist positions. The premise is that by increasing unit costs, a labour equilibrium can be achieved. There is much more in the article and anyone involved in science should read it.

2 thoughts on “Saving US biomedical research

  1. I wonder (why i wonder why i wonder (why i bother)) what a ‘labor equilibrium’ is—-perhaps it has something to do with arrow-debreu-hahn theory of ‘General Equilibrium’ (who may be still employed by Defense Department). ( I even am a beneficiary of DoD since i stayed at a military retreat in volcanos national park this month on the ‘big island’ in hawaii since i have a fmaily connection, tho i did end up sleeping out a bit since i got lost and watched the nenes—endangered geese)).

    According to Piketty (big data about the 1% —#1 on amazon), or Sonnenchein (SMD theorem and former U Chicago president) there may be no labor equilibrium, or if you take Voltaire seriously (Mr Pangloss also known as Leibniz, or even Maupertis—principle of least action), we are already there.

    (One can mention Hahn died in 2013 according to the blog Marginal Revolution out of GMU—one more place some faculty loaned me some books which i neglected to return—another was N Tideman of V Tech . GMU of course is famous for its rigorous spneding of Koch money via mercatus center (see the ‘anarchist faq’ by b caplan (“economics” which he probably can spell since its his department), another one of the ‘truly needy.’)

    Is there a way of knowing the optimal spending for health care? (or even DoD, DoE, not to mention DWI or DIY or DOA). Maybe an ‘information theory’ (shannon) approach might (not) be applicable (i once tried this for RNA folding—predicting tertiary structure from first principles (fact free science—but ‘the devil is in the details’ —-you have to know your ‘bayesian prior’ even if you are a frequentist like me)—i mostly was showing this is noncomputable, but they wanted a product) .Like NIH i’d say if you want to improve health outcomes, compare your neighborhood including your daily grind, with others,. (I remember an NIH talk on chaos theory and mental illness which featured for the first picture a thank you to Phillip Morris Co—i guess you have to walk through the mud to get the pearls. Or, say F Goodwin of GWU ( “infinite mind’ on NPR)—had to get some extramural grants from ‘big pharma’ to maintain his truly needy lifestyle).

    I noticed my door was broken when i got back (had zero problems with TSA though i did set off the alarm cuz i forgto to empty my pocklets (sic). Police left a note on my door; and even my council member is now the new Mayor of DC.

    PNAS had an article (‘lucretian curve’—lucretius (lucre, luck) invented atoms, though parliament funkadelic may have a prior claim—atomic dog—depending on your interpretation of quantum theory) Andrew Cash More (or cashmore depending on your pronounciation) in 2010 on fee will, morality and biology.

    How much noise is required to transmit a signal?


  2. ps. if you look at my birth vertificate i’m from little rock arkansas—seems like they got an issue down there—-dmixture of good and bad. fables of faubus—eric dolphy and mingus.
    course you could allus do nicola scafetta (welfare queen) at duke, a non-entity with bruce west (‘nonlinearity’).


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