From the Boston Globe (of course):
Two dozen rural states stretching from Maine to Mississippi and Montana are clamoring to increase their share of federal research dollars now disproportionately awarded to Boston-area institutions and scientists.
Whaddaya mean, "disproportionately"? WE DESERVE IT!!!
“There’s a battle between merit and egalitarianism,” said Dr. David Page, director of the Whitehead Institute, a prestigious research institution in Cambridge affiliated with MIT.
Yeah, pure merit versus affirmative action quotas for lame ass science from Universities we've never heard of maaaang. There couldn't possibly be any bias in grant review and award that puts a finger on the scale could there?
In one of the efforts, Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican on the Appropriations Committee, is proposing that funding for the special program to benefit rural states, formally called the NIH’s Institutional Development Award, be raised to $310 million, up from the current $273 million. The current amount equals just 1 percent of the institute’s research grants — a drop in the bucket compared with what Boston researchers win each year.
Last time I checked Massachusetts Congressional District 8 for NIH funding (probably a number of FY ago), Brigham and Women's Hospital was pulling in $253,333,482 in NIH grants. MIT? $172,184,305. Harvard Medical School? $168,648,847. The list goes on in this single Congressional district.
and while the Globe has this scare passage near the top:
The coalition of states that benefits from the NIH special program for rural states doubled the amount of money it spent on lobbying in the last decade, to $590,000 in 2013 from $300,000 in 2003. That number does not include direct lobbying by universities in those states.
this is going to barely manage to tread water against the combined might of the richest of "have" Universities and institutions:
Representative Michael Capuano, whose district encompassing the Boston-area research hospitals wins more NIH money than any other congressional district, said the Massachusetts delegation is playing defense right now.
“The system works reasonably well but it’s under attack in a serious way,” Capuano said.
Massachusetts is mobilizing. Hospital executives, university presidents, and Washington lobbyists make routine trips to the Capitol. Their not-so-subtle message: Boston is on top because its elite institutions offer the best chances of big scientific breakthroughs.
then there is classic misdirection and the usual conceit that the NIH award process is purely about merit, uncontaminated by self-reinforcing vicious cycles of the rich getting richer.
“There are people in Boston who deserve more than a million dollars in NIH money because that is the best use of those dollars,” said Dr. Barrett Rollins, chief scientific officer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a top recipient of federal research funds. “Congress has a responsibility to spend taxpayer money in the best possible way, and to me, the most straightforward way to do that is to make sure the dollars are invested in the most meritorious work without regard to geographic distribution.”
Because the quality of science is not evenly distributed across the country, researchers should not expect federal dollars to be either, said Harry Orf, senior vice president for research at Massachusetts General Hospital, another top recipient of NIH grants.
“You have congressmen who can’t evaluate science sending money to places not rated for innovation,” Orf said. “As funds get more and more scarce, you want to make sure you’re betting on the best science.”
It is beyond asinine to pretend that the NIH grant money is distributed by geographic affirmative action to any extend that squeezes the elite coastal research institutions. The above numbers and any current search on RePORTER verifies that the kind of money that is being proposed to go into this geographical affirmative action is a drop in the bucket. One or two of the larger institutions funded by NIH (and keep in mind that a place such as "Harvard" is made up of multiple institutions which are named as independent awardees in the NIH records) account for the entire outlay in the the NIH’s Institutional Development Award program. Even if the increase to $310M goes through.
There is considerable debate about "the best science" and about the best way to hedge our scientific bets. The NIH works, haltingly, in a way by which the serendipity of chance discovery from a diversity of approaches is balanced against predictable brute-force progress from exceptionally well funded Universities, Medical Schools and research institutions. I find myself citing papers from the very biggest institutions, sure, but I have numerous critical findings that I cite in my work that have come from smaller research programs in smaller Universities and (gasp) Colleges. Don't you? If you do not, I question your scholarship. Seriously.
I suggest a purely self-interested goal, for those of you who are elite-coastal-University die hards. Every Congress Critter gets a more or less equal vote. The ones from Maine (Susan Collins, see above), from Alabama....
“It’s hard to compete against MIT or Harvard. . . . They’ve had their share. A lot of state colleges and universities all over the country, from Idaho to Maine, have some ideas too, and I think we should give these people from smaller schools in other states an opportunity,” said Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. “It’s time to fix that.”
from West Virginia...
“The program stipulates that not everything goes to Harvard, Yale, and Stanford,” said Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat.
and from Oklahoma, among others.
Representative Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, said he’s simply interested in supporting research that occurs “outside the normal corridors of power.”
Rep Cole seems to understand why geographical affirmative action is necessary, doesn't he?
“There is a network where you tend to reward peers and people you know, and I think the distribution of funds, not intentionally, is skewed a bit toward places like Boston,” Cole said. “We just want to make sure that the playing field is fair.”
We need all these Critters to be on board if we expect Congress to listen to our pleas on behalf of the NIH.
It is politically stupid to fail to understand this.