• The sequester is hurting mental health research

    From a letter sent today by Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), to scientists holding NIMH research grants:

    Our FY 2013… budget is approximately $1.395 billion. This includes a 5.0% sequestration reduction, an across-the-board 0.2% rescission, and a 0.6% DHHS Secretary’s discretionary transfer reduction. Overall, relative to FY2012, our budget is reduced by $84 million, or 5.7%. For anyone who tracks trends in funding, our FY 2013 budget is roughly equivalent, in absolute dollars, to our FY 2004 budget. Corrected for inflation, we are nearly back to 1999.

    What is the effect of those cuts on NIMH research?

    …we anticipate awarding 529 new Research Project Grants (RPGs) in FY 2013, which will reflect a reduction of 55 awards below the 584 new awards issued in FY 2012.

    So, a 9.4% reduction in the number of new projects. How important is that?

    Medical research is like buying lottery tickets. The great majority of projects make small contributions to knowledge or human well-being, but every so often there is a transcendent victory. It’s impossible to know in advance which project will be a triumph. If you want to find one, you need to buy a lot of tickets.

    Mental health really really really needs some triumphs. Mental illness kills thousands of Americans and disables millions. The available medications and psychotherapies have only limited benefits. To my knowledge, there are no fundamentally new medications or psychotherapies on the horizon. If it was up to me, I would buy a lot more tickets.

    @Bill_Gardner

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    • [begin sarcasm]The Government does not have money to fund this but they have plenty of money to fund the corn to ethanol program. [end sarcasm] despite the fact that corn to ethanol is not easier on the environment than petroleum, it is not effective, it is expensive and almost nobody who supported the creation of the program supports it now (Mostly environmentalist and people who wanted to reduce petroleum imports). Primary voters in Iowa like it and so it persists.

      • There was _one_ good reason to support corn ethanol: it was a stepping stone to cellulosic ethanol. I thought. Then for a painfully long time, it looked as though cellulosic ethanol was too hard and wouldn’t fly and the whole thing was a complete disaster. But the last I read, cellulosic ethanol has risen from the dead and a bunch of industrial-scale pilot projects are ramping up.

        http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6126/1374.full?sid=9d584c72-7c9c-4e49-9ea7-11719b87cae9

        Long, excellent, and gated (sigh) article from Science (if you don’t subscribe, you should), which concludes with:

        “The question is whether Zaremba and his fellow retailers can convince consumers quickly enough to buy the millions of liters of cellulosic ethanol headed their way. If not, an industry that is only now getting up to speed may soon resemble the piles of waste it’s trying to use to revolutionize the future of transportation.”

        (Moderator: please feel free to reject this as too off-topic.)

    • The recession cut the already meager funds for housing the mentally ill and developmentally delayed. My brother was on several waiting lists for ten years as his parents (in whose home he lived) went from their mid-seventies to mid-eighties. In the end, it was local housing for Seniors and local residents on SSDI (I think they assumed 64 year olds with health issues) that gave him a place to live that he could afford if my parents died.

    • There are many things I would like that I cannot afford. Every dollar that is spent on ANY type of research is taken from a taxpayer – either present or future. You point out how little we have in results from prior investments of our stolen funds – then suggest more should be taken from us and badly invested again.

      • We say we can’t fund mental health research, but when children are gunned down in schools, we say no gun control. We need more mental health interventions.

        I would ask to which school of thought you belong? Respectfully curious.