When Arlen Spector held up Senate Democrats for $10 billion in NIH bonus funding as a quid pro quo for his yes vote on the Big O’s economic Hail Mary, people thought it was the slickest heist since Butch and Sundance held up the Union Pacific in 1899.
But now it’s time to assure all those greenbacks get spent in ways that stimulate economic growth, like right now.
So last week the NIH’s acting director practically begged university administrators to refrain from applying for dough except for beaker ready projects.
“It would be the height of embarrassment,” Raynard Kington told the New York Times, “if we give these grants and find out that institutions are not spending them to hire people and make purchases and advance the science the way they’re designed to do.”
“Piece of cake!” was the resounding response from the administrators who’d been struggling with flat funding for years.
And the scientists couldn’t hide their glee.
“This is a miracle, I think,” said AJ Stewart Smith, Princeton’s dean for research. “It is redressing this terrible problem where the success rate for excellent proposals was very low,” he explained.
Maybe so, but all the money has to be spent in 2 years. NIH grant proposals typically run 4 or 5.
Assuming they can be rejiggered, grant proposals that NIH review committees have already deemed worthy, just not fundable with the pre-windfall budget will be first in line for dollars.
The agency also plans to beef up payments to projects in progress.
Clinical researchers may not get much because their trials generally take longer than 2 years to complete.
And Kington is about to distribute more NIH dollars than any director in history. Not bad for an acting director.
So Raynard, you’re not tempted to fund any pet projects or researchers, right?
“We’re not going to sell our soul for $10 billion,” he told the Times. That “would cost much more” he deadpanned.