Of Particular Significance

Cutting to the Heart

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

ON 08/07/2013

Well, you know there’s something deeply wrong with the way your country is run when stupid things like this start happening.  Take a research program that’s been monitoring several thousand people at a time, focusing on their cardiovascular health, and following them for decades (http://www.framinghamheartstudy.org/about/history.html); and without warning, cut it by over 40%.  Not even a phased cut; just “sorry, you have $5 million instead of $9 million this year.”

Oh, that’s a good move.  That’ll save the country a lot of cash.  And so what if all that money we spent already, over the last decade or so, will now be partially wasted (since the data they’ve been accumulating will be severely compromised.)

It seems likely that the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the government’s NIH, would not have imposed this cut this if they themselves didn’t face severe budget reductions, handed down from the NIH which like all branches of government is suffering cuts.  Do any of my readers know the full story?

When you cut government across-the-board by 6%, the consequences for individual programs tend to be much, much steeper, due to fixed costs that can’t be cut.  The consequences grow as you go down the bureaucratic chain…

Anyway, I hope a private foundation will pick up some of the slack on this one.  But this is happening all over, and not every program that we’ve already spent money on will survive these types of cuts.

[Thanks to Matt Buckley for drawing my attention to this story.]

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13 Responses

  1. If i could just add one more thing to my above post, the comments in the article i linked above are very insightful.

  2. It is highly likely that the budget cut in this case is a direct result of the sequestration. This recent brief letter from within the NIH, to their empolyees mainly, describes pretty clearly that this is the case:


    The sequestration affected most government agencies, some passed on those cuts differently than others. For instance, some agencies end up furloughing employees. The NIH, on the other hand, aims to use 85% of their funding for grants and research (roughly speaking). This is why the sequestration resulted in mainly cuts to grants and extramural (outside the NIH) research.

  3. That happens when your country spends all of the money on useless military and weapons. Well deserved. I heard americans dont have a health insurance. rofl

  4. I was a Technical Information Specialist at NIH/ (then)National Heart and Lung Institute between college and grad school. My job was to punch in, disappear (free shuttle to the NIH campus), reappear, then punch out. I occupied a virtual chair that would otherwise be defunded. I read through a room of project reports in boredom, uncovered a lovely case of fraud, and vetoed a grant application. NIH was a hog trough of mediocrity in which the best came last. NIH funding could be cut by 20% with no loss – if the worst rancid fat (e.g., NIH/NIMH) were cleaved from the meat. It will go the other way.

    If you think taking EPR spectra before and after soaking various leathers in aqueous copper sulfate to learn the secrets of biomaterials is clever, add a fin or a bennie to your 1040 payment and request it go to NIH.

  5. If you take the lead to write a letter to Congress on this funding issue, I will sign my name on it.

  6. The disparity between the top 10% and the bottom 90% of incomes grows wider. It has worsened for at over 30 yrs. Over time, there is decreasing wealth that can transfer from the 90% to the 10% group. My father was never a wealthy farmer. But, he knew he had to put some things back into the soil that yielded so well for him. If he didn’t, crops would wither and die. A lot of important things are now dying in the fields of our society.

    1. Jim it’s a science site, for god’s sake. If you want to make a point on inequality, compare the opposite ends of the scale, or go by percentiles. What you have written is meaningless.

  7. Well, Prof. Matt Strassler sure has something to say and I, a filmmaker, say “Good for him.” We need more dissenting minds now and more than ever. The collapse of the Soviet Union was supposed to bring us more prosperity and help the middle class achieve its dreams of greater success, better homes, higher education for our kids. All the contrary, an over-world of evil in the form of big corporate conglomerates have been strangling the middle class all over the world, and lastly they have performed nothing short than a financial coup d’etat on the global financial systems, particularly here in America, when they went to take the homes of our hard-working parents, including ours (if we had any to start with). Stand up America, standing up, go to your window, stick your head out, and scream bloody murder, for we have had enough of this crap and we won’t take it anymore – so watch out you crooked politicians, if your dream is to be like Wiener – forget about it. Your butt is dog meat from now on. You didn’t want to fund the super collider in Texas, well, now we are mad and we won’t take it anymore. @George Maynard$ Physicist-Filmmaker at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, Concordia University, Montreal QC DGM/08-07-13

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