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by revere, cross-posted from Effect Measure

Every two years the US National Science Board does an analysis of how the country is doing on research and development (R&D). While an important measure of the ability to innovate and compete in a highly competitive and globalized world, I have a hard time getting excited about how this is being portrayed as a horse race, who is ahead, how is coming on strong, who is slipping behind. I’m a scientist and I don’t think of this as a national competition. I understand how the President’s science advisors might, since they are interested in science as a handmaiden to the economy. But if someone in China or Belgium discovers how to cure cancer, fine with me.

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by revere, cross-posted from Effect Measure

I’ll soon be at the end of my career, funding-wise, although I plan to continue as an active scientist for as long as my neurons will process information in a logical order. I mention this so you won’t take this as special pleading. I’m not going to benefit from it. But if we want to continue to make advances in science and health (as well as other things), we’re going to have to invest more heavily in basic research. And when we do, we’ll have to do it smarter than we’ve done it before. Notice I didn’t say anything about competing economically as a nation, although any nation that fails to invest in science will fall behind. Science doesn’t care about national borders and neither do I. I’m talking about learning enough about how the world works that we can deal with major threats like influenza pandemics — to take an example not at all at random.

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By Susan F. Wood, PhD

Much has been written at the Pump Handle and elsewhere in the media and scientific literature about ensuring that science appropriately drives government policies.  Questions and concerns have abounded regarding inappropriate non-scientific interference, while at the same time many health and environmental agencies (and the scientific staff within them) continue their incredibly important work in research, evaluation, development, regulation and service delivery.  Several organizations have done surveys and developed principles on scientific integrity including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Scientists and Engineers for America.

At the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy at George Washington University School of Public Health, we are launching a multi-part study to get a strong handle on the written policies regarding the role of scientists in government that are currently in place, an understanding of how they are implemented at various agencies, and what recommendations can be made to specifically create policies that support strong science and the appropriate role of scientists and researchers within our health and environment agencies.

This is where we need your help:

We are seeking current and former government scientists to participate in interviews for the Scientists in Government project.  Interviews will be conducted in Summer 2008.
If you are a current or former government scientist (with an advanced degree and at least five years of experience working for a science-based health or environment federal agency), you can help us in our work to strengthen policies on science in the federal government.  Participation involves a phone or in-person interview of 1-2 hours.  Our study is approved by George Washington University’s IRB (#030823).

More information about the project can be found at:
If you are interested in participating, please contact Ruth Long at 202-994-7993 or If you know others who might be interested in participating, please send them to this webpage:


Susan F. Wood, PhD is Research Professor at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, where she is part of the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP).  She also served as Director of the FDA Office of Women’s Health from 2000-2005 and is a member of the Board of Directors for Scientists and Engineers for America.

by Susan F. Wood, PhD 

Over the last 2 days, we’ve seen two political leaders speak out on the need for science and evidence to drive our policy decisions in areas such as health, food safety, enviroment, climate change, and renewable energy.

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by Susan F. Wood, PhD 

Today’s Washington Post writes about one more instance where women’s health and children’s health were a lower priority than the interests of a powerful group.  In this case, it was breastfeeding vs. the formula industry.

Marc Kaufman and Christopher Lee write:

In an attempt to raise the nation’s historically low rate of breast-feeding, federal health officials commissioned an attention-grabbing advertising campaign a few years ago to convince mothers that their babies faced real health risks if they did not breast-feed. It featured striking photos of insulin syringes and asthma inhalers topped with rubber nipples.
Plans to run these blunt ads infuriated the politically powerful infant formula industry, which hired a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former top regulatory official to lobby the Health and Human Services Department. Not long afterward, department political appointees toned down the campaign.
The ads ran instead with more friendly images of dandelions and cherry-topped ice cream scoops, to dramatize how breast-feeding could help avert respiratory problems and obesity. In a February 2004 letter, the lobbyists told then-HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson they were “grateful” for his staff’s intervention to stop health officials from “scaring expectant mothers into breast-feeding,” and asked for help in scaling back more of the ads.

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 By Susan F. Wood, PhD

 The Journal of Women’s Health published a special report and an editorial last month on the FDA’s Office of Women’s Health (FDA OWH) that provide information and insight into the multiple roles of such an office, and the importance of maintaining the scientific research funded there.  The special report, “The Food and Drug Administration Office of Women’s Health: Impact of Science on Regulatory Policy” identifies some of the major projects initiated by the FDA OWH, more than 100 studies costing more than $14 million over 10 years.  This is a very small amount compared to NIH or to what the regulated industry funds (billions each year), but is focused on elucidating data that can help the FDA make regulatory decisions that affect the health of both women and men.

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by PotomacFeverish 

The Washington Post announced what we already knew.  That the lame duck sessions of Congress (one already past, one this week) will not accomplish much.  So what, you say?  They hadn’t accomplished much for the last year, why should we care now?

Jonathan Weisman reports:
Congress will convene on Tuesday for what some fear will be the lamest of lame-duck sessions, and GOP leaders have decided to take a minimalist approach before turning over the reins of power to the Democrats. Rather than a final surge of legislative activity, Congress will probably wrap up things after a single, short week of work. They have even decided to punt decisions on annual government spending measures to the Democrats next year.

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by revere

[Since my colleague and new blog sibling Dave Ozonoff posted here some advice on NIH grant writing in response to a post of mine over at Effect Measure, I thought I’d cross-post a follow-up I did on NIH funding a few days later. BTW, Dave, I’ll have to give you some lessons in snarkiness. Your post was way too benign!]

In the late 1990s congress decided to invest in our future by doubling the NIH budget. If you are a scientist today trying to get an NIH grant, however, you are in tough shape. Success rates are falling like a stone, with less than 20% of grant applications now being funded. It is common to submit a proposal several times before finally getting a grant or giving up and moving on. What happened?

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