Francis Collins On the Job

Dr. Collins did a town hall meeting style announcement his first day as NIH Director on Aug 17th, 2009. He laid out his view for the NIH: more funding (good), encouraging young scientists (good, average age for first own funding for US biologist is 42, not good), and staying open in communication with society it is serving.

The NIH has $30.9 billion budget for 09 and 2010 thanks to the stimulus addition of $10 billion/year. However, it will feel dried up after two years if the budget plan remains as is. The Obama administration does not seem to want increase the basic research but instead focus more on health care management.

Collins is a well admired director and established scientist. However, it may be a little concerning that he might be too much into “big science” and organized efforts. I don’t know what they teach in graduate classes now but from what I was told 20 years ago curiosity-driven science is the best science and that was what got the US to the dominant leadership in biomedical fields.

Talking about nurturing young scientists, big programs and big labs controlling most grants by proposing big science seem trendy these days. The fight to become one of the big guys in a small, crowded field is a really daunting path for young researchers to tread. The big guys have the say from publication to funding and often times the unpleasant thought and bitter taste of competing against a scientific juggernaut turn young researchers away.

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1 Comment to Francis Collins On the Job

May 28, 2010

FC says in an recent interview with Science that he works 100 hours a week to run NIH and his lab. He defended his “big science” ideas by stressing that after all, “this is the Institutes of National Health”, must do some translational research that leads to cure for the congress and public to give more money. I guess the point of the argument is whether planned research or the curiosity-driven, researcher-oriented research generates better medicine in the long run.

Got former NIH director Harold Vermus back to be NCI director, quite a move for the both of them.

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