Shut it down


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Our government in action: An NIH nationwide study to track hundreds of thousands of children from birth to age 21 is wracked with budget and management problems.

All told, this study has already cost the taxpayers almost a billion dollars for the enrollment of only 4,000 children, not the 100,000 envisioned. That’s about $250,000 per child, an amount that seems incredibly high.

In addition to the above problems, it appears there are scientific ones as well:

Separately, turmoil has rocked the study’s advisory committee: two members resigned in March, saying that they weren’t consulted about changes in sampling strategy that they feel will undermine the study’s scientific value.

Because the costs per child are so high, NIH is trying to scale the project back in ways that some scientists are saying will bias the study.

But alas, will the present Congress shut this mess down before more money gets wasted? I doubt it. The article includes soundbites from two Senators, both Democrats, who seem remarkably unconcerned considering the spiraling costs.

Senator Tim Johnson (Democrat, South Dakota) told Nature that he is “disappointed” with the sidelining of the Vanguard centres, including the one in Brookings. He vowed “to ensure the integrity and intent of the study is not compromised”. Senator Thomas Harkin (Democrat, Iowa), chairman of the spending subcommittee that funds the NIH, says: “I am concerned that Congress has appropriated a total of nearly $1 billion for this project and we still do not understand exactly how the NIH plans to implement it. We need some clarity.”

I say we need some common sense. The federal government is bankrupt. It can’t afford this kind of expense right now, especially considering how badly NIH is managing it. Shut it down.

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