Bang for Our Buck in Research

In his weekly column at Pacific Standard, our Mike White discusses the importance of basic science for productive science:

…Congress wants to know: Are we getting the most out of our research dollars?…the National Academy of Sciences…came back with its answer…If you care about the economic returns of research, don’t focus too much on the economic returns of research. Focus instead on cultivating a world-class basic research community, and the economic returns will come.
Mike White

Reach out and grab some cash

512px-Left_Hand_-_Kolkata_2011-04-20_2350I use twitter primarily to keep up with what’s new and newsworthy in science and science communication. It’s a great tool to quickly catch up on new discoveries or  controversies. It also can expose opportunities you had no idea existed. The other day I saw a tweet about small grants to fund science outreach projects. So cool! I didn’t realize these small scale funding mechanisms existed to help encourage scientific outreach.

Continue reading “Reach out and grab some cash”

Better Trials, So Failure Isn’t All Bad

Image courtesy of Zachary Veach
Image courtesy of Zachary Veach

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is rolling out new rules for clinical trials testing psychiatric drugs or interventions. For years, applications have proposed testing to see if Drug X helps with a particular condition, like depression, schizophrenia, anorexia etc.

If a drug does show an effect on the particular condition being tested, we have learned that we may have a new treatment for that condition. “Hooray!” If a drug does not show an effect on the particular condition being tested, we have learned that we may not have a new treatment for that condition, which is pretty much what we knew before the expensive clinical trial.

The NIMH has created new funding rules in an attempt to address this issue. Continue reading “Better Trials, So Failure Isn’t All Bad”

Special NIH Fund for Cutting Edge Science

rally for researchFrom the outside, the NIH is a huge sprawling pit of bureaucracy that somehow manages to fund science across the entire spectrum of biomedical research. From the inside, I’ve discovered that there are branches and offices, of which most scientists are totally unaware. In addition to the 27 institutes and centers that make up the NIH, there is a special office dedicated to cutting edge science, risky ventures, and cross-disciplinary collaborations. The NIH Common Fund coordinates research that involves at least two institutes or centers and tries to help remove the roadblocks that keep basic scientific discoveries from moving to the clinic.

I had no idea this office existed and some of the projects they are funding are pretty exciting. There is a single cell analysis project focused on developing the necessary technology and creating workshops to train scientists to use these new techniques. There is also a project to systematically characterize genetic knock-out mice in order to have complete characterization of knock-outs of all genes in the mouse. The mice have all been generated and now the Common Fund is paying for characterization of all the mutant mice. This would be a huge resource for both labs using mice as a model system and those looking to follow their gene of interest into a vertebrate model organism.

The Common Fund puts out requests for applications for all sorts of interdisciplinary projects and the forefront of scientific research is visible in their current efforts.


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