As last month’s Ebola hysteria tightened its grip on the United States, National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins publicly blamed a lack of congressional funding for the global health crisis. “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”
National Review Online disputed that claim, pointing out that funding never really “slid” and that the NIH routinely spent gobs of money on pointless pet projects. And, apparently, it continues to do so.
Late last month, the NIH announced that it will grant $31 million to “enhance diversity in the medical research workforce.” The five-year program is expected to support 50 awardees from “underrepresented” backgrounds in the science and research fields.
“The biomedical research enterprise must engage all sectors of the population in order to solve the most complex biological problems and discover innovative new ways to improve human health,” Collins said in a statement. “While past efforts to diversify our workforce have had significant impact on individuals, we have not made substantial progress in expanding diversity on a larger scale. This program will test new models of training and mentoring so that we can ultimately attract the best minds from all groups to biomedical research.”
Fair enough. But if the NIH is really hurting for funds as Collins suggests, wouldn’t it make more sense to allocate that $31 million to address an actual health crisis (like, say, Ebola), rather than a feel-good social program?