I will be completely honest with you, I had no intention of
blogging about this trip to Portland for the National Institutes of
Health (NIH) Regional Seminar. I suspected I would man the Genetics
of Taste lab Wednesday morning, fly out of DIA, land in PDX, attend
the conference and thus figure out how to get our next round of
funding for our research, fly home, write grant and call it a day.
Grants aren't exactly a lively blog topic, especially science
Well, I was so wrong (at least I think I was, you'll have to
decide for yourself if my NIH experience merited blogging). The
2-day conference has been actually entertaining (in addition to the
known quantity of educational) and absolutely worth giving my Blue
Tongue Blog audience at least a taste of. How could I not, when Dr.
Sally Rockey, acting director of extramural (read: grant) research
kicked the first session off with a segment of the Colbert Report.
I was immediately won over (video link here for all that are
intrigued, if the link doesn't work, goggle or bing "Francis
Collins on the Colbert Report").
So, what is the NIH anyway? The NIH (highlighted below in blue)
is a division under the large government umbrella of Health and
Human Services (HHS).
The acronym NIH stands for the National Institutes of Health,
emphasis on Institutes- plural that is (see below). It is a
collection of 27 Institutes and centers, each with a unique
mission, priorities, budget and funding strategy.
Second row from the bottom, fourth from the left you'll find the
National Center for Research Resources or NCRR. It is under this
center that our Genetics of Taste: A Flavor for Health grant hails,
as a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA). As the name
implies, our grant is not just for traditional bench or clinical
science, but rather a true pairing of educational and science
Finally, I learned today that all funded NIH grant titles and
abstracts are available online. So you yourself can see just how
novel our SEPA project is for example, or you could take a peak at
the funding behind something else you might be interested in,
perhaps Alzheimer's or obesity. It's all there. In fact, beyond
transparency, the NIH requires authors of scientific articles to
make the published papers available a year following publication
through the US National Library of Medicine http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
and is actively pushing grant authors to truly write and submit
enthusiastic and compelling applications in an effort to make the
best and most current scientific studies digestible by more than
just the small niche of researchers. So I'll leave you with this
final slide from Dr. Rockey, one that as a science communicator I
hope researchers take to heart, and one that perhaps you all might
also be encouraged by: science research in the United States is a
intellectual and economic power that is for the people by the
people and therefore open to the people.