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August 08, 2007


"And speaking of that, finally, does anyone have any advice for how I can get back to Planet Normal, where Democrats stand up for long-term visionary government enterprise, and Gingrich doesn't?"

In the Wizard of Oz Dorothy got back to Kansas by waking up. I wish it were that simple here....

"And speaking of that, finally, does anyone have any advice for how I can get back to Planet Normal, where Democrats stand up for long-term visionary government enterprise, and Gingrich doesn't?"

Newt has always been a major advocate for science funding, and played an instrumental role in the NIH Doubling effort at the end of the 1990s. This is one issue that seems amenable to bipartisanship. I think one problem you nail is the need for grassroots efforts by scientists to take the case for research to the public.

I am a Neuroscience researcher and Neurologist, so I can help with some of the human patient translational links....

emptypockets, I always find your posts interesting, informative, and helpful. I wish I knew anything about government funding for science.

I think one promising line of argument is to mention "research translation" - the processes required to move scientific findings and techniques into useful practice. We have made enourmous investments in basic research infrastructure and training. Unfortunately it typically takes 10 to 20 years for ideas in basic research to be widely applied in clinical and other areas of practice. The NIH has begun to take this issue seriously - ironically, to some extend because of the pressure of the tight budgets and ideological skinflintism of the Bush years.

There is much that practitioners in many fields - especially biomedical fields - can and should learn from scientists about introducing evidence based practice and recognized best practice techniques, based in scientific investigation of what works and what doesn't. The reverse is also true. Scientists have much to learn from practitioners about putting ideas to work in the often messy conditions of real world practice.

If a buck can be made off research findings - e.g., in pharmaceuticals or medical devices - the road is fairly well paved. But in areas such as disease prevention and service delivery, where the ultimate goal is to reduce demand for expensive treatments, only government intervention can address the obvious market failure.

We need more and steadier funding in research. We also need to fund mechanisms to make better use of the fruits of research. This line of argument, it seems to me, appeals both to the head and to the heart of the politics of science.

Done! When I go to give Claire McCaskill an earful about FISA I will tell her that I am interested in bioinformatics and NIH funding is very important.

I am a registered repug (wait, wait, don't hurt me; I'm not done yet,). The 2 biggest reasons I haven't voted for a single repug in over 15 years: 1)Newt 2)Kenneth Star and his enablers including #1 above,(actually the whole philosophy that those two exposed, not just the individuals).

The reasons for not voting for repugs are, of course, now a thousand fold more than back then and I basically keep my obsolete party affiliation to screw with the rover's numbers (i.e. he counts on me to support the repugs). Here in the 3rd world (Florida) I also do not get harassed at the polls for my ID when they see my repug affiliation (true story, they stopped when I pointed that out).

The frustrating part is that Newt is a brilliant man and I remember him being on the right side of a surprising number of issues (NIH being one of them). He's just irreversibly misguided when it comes to politics as one of the architects of the win-at-all-costs repug philosophy. He therefore needs to be kept in Hannibal Lecter style restraints while listening to his advice. Never forget that we are where we are (think shithole) at least partly because of him.

I hate it when Newt is right too because he is such an *sshole but I remind myself that good ideas can come from many places.

semiot, what you're talking about is at the heart of the problem. It is easy to talk to the legislators and to the public about translational research because you can give them a patient's face and story. There's a lot of empathy there.

But that kind of research is, in my opinion, the final result and not the driving force (in a previous post I used the analogy of the waves on a riverbank -- it's what gets your feet wet, but the central river current is basic science). And I don't have a lot to say about clinically-directed/translational research. For one thing, it's not what I do (and I don't personally find it that interesting), and secondly, a lot of it can be effectively done by the private sector (although there are exceptions, as you point out, and some groups are trying to set up publicly-funded biotech-style research collaboratives).

Maybe what I ought to do is focus on how you can get from a basic discovery to a therapy. Bruce Alberts, former President of the National Academy of Sciences and currently President of a scientific professional society, the American Society for Cell Biology, recently put out a call for examples of basic research leading to potential therapies, in an article called "Why Basic Research in Cell Biology is Still Critical for Human Health" (PDF) so maybe they are thinking of organizing their advocacy along those same lines.

Actually, the Dems did have a program for expanding research and funding science education. Pelosi announced it to much fanfare before the 2006 election. I suppose it has gotten caught up in all the other funding issues.

The way to get fundiong is to tie it to defense. Are you old enough to remember the National Defense Education Act that did so much for science education in the '50s and '60s? Are you aware the interstates were started under Eisenhower as a dxefense measure (easier to move troops)? Even food safety is touted today as a defense issue.

Sorry, but that's the major wayu to do it. The other way is to stress competitiveness. We can't be no 1 in science and technology unless we pay for it.

California also passed the stem cell bond issue partly on the idea that it would creat good tech jobs in the biotech sector for people with only jr college or undergrad education.

In short, Gingrich has pretty well covered the arguments.

He's right, basically. This needs funding if the US is going to keep up with Europe, etc., in research. I work in this type of research and the "roller-coaster" nature since 2001 is hurting people badly and warping their scientific plans. Why would he be "right?" He's smart enough to see that this will make him look good, and most importantly, make him look smart, which has always been his image, the "boy genius." Well, it's time for the Democrats to outdo him, a proper and fair challenge has been issued by Gingrich. What a disgrace if they don't meet it.

I'm torn on this issue.

1) We need to NOT over-extend if we're going to be in power soon and debating a major health care system reform and trying to deal with huge federal debts lefty by Georgie Boy.

2) We obviously need to spend mega-dollars on all science research, whether in the medical field or otherwise.

So, I'd say spending should be decided in a project-by-project basis. Congess needs to guesstimate the value of each and increase spending where they think it'll produce bigger returns for Americans.

Nasty thing having to guess.

MarkH, that's reasonable. Just as further food for thought, here are some of the numbers:

Current NIH budget: $28.6 billion
Gingrich's recommended increase of 8% = +$2.3 billion
Science advocates' recommended increase of 6.7% = +$1.9 billion
Minimum to keep pace with inflation, at 3.7% = +$1.1 billion

Estimated cost of John Edwards's health care plan: $90 to $120 billion

Pie chart overview of government spending (2005 data) from IRS is here:

Social security/medicare: 37%
Defense, veterans affairs: 24%
Medicaid, unemployment, social services: 20%
Education and research: 10%
Interest on the debt: 7%

The NSF and NIH budgets together are about 1% of the total (they are accounted for under Education and Research).

Another way to look at it is that the gap between the Congressional NIH increase and either of the recommended increases is about $1 billion, equivalent to about 1% of a health care plan or about half a week in Iraq.

gingrich is moving -

on the republican nomination.

he sees what idiots he has as opponents.

cf his persistent criticism of the iraq invasion and occupation.

this guy is saying what democratic candidates should be saying

and would be saying, if they weren't paying consultants lots of money to tell them "don't say that".

are we headed for another presidential election in which the democratic candidate tries to creep and slink into the white house a la gore and kerry?

looks like it.

Has gingrich reversed himself on the GWOT? In March he was declaring WW3 and now he says Iraq was a huge mistake. Does he really think he can get a nomination changing tacks?

Neil, I don't know. He has a statement at the top of his website, re-emphasizing the "phony global war on terror" and laying the blame at the feet of Congressional Republicans and the White House.

He talked at the National Press Club the other day and I saw a part of it on CSPAN. His focus was on how dirty and shallow press coverage of campaigns, and the campaigns themselves, have begun. He took as one example Obama's recent response on Pakistan, and came to Obama's defense saying that it is absurd to try to outline foreign policy at that level in 30 seconds and that if we demanded real debates that wouldn't happen (he held up the Lincoln-Douglas debates as a model, and endorsed a plan to have lengthy single-issue debates televised on a major network on each of the 9 Sundays between Labor Day and Election Day). He also criticized the coverage, saying it could have gone into a substantive discussion of negotiations with Pakistan but instead went immediately into Obama horserace mode.

More relevant to your question, he also (implicitly) came to Kerry's defense saying that it's just absurd to not let a candidate change positions, and to label them a flip-flopper if they learn new things or if their view of a situation changes over the course of a campaign. He gave some examples of major changes in viewpoint that have happened over the course of campaigning, and just assailed the idea that a candidate should be asked in Jan 2007 what they'll do first in Jan 2009, when it will be a different world.

On the one hand, maybe that was partly providing protection for his own flip-flop. On the other hand, I basically agreed with everything he had to say.

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