Will Rogers said we should be thankful we don’t get all the government we pay for, but late last year I helped decide how some of your money got spent. I was asked to serve on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) review panel. (Because of comics. Really.) These panels determine how grant money is distributed to researchers around the country who respond to a formal request for proposals. Those requests show up through official and public channels where researchers know where to look, and when the NIH decides that it wants to fund, say, research on a new drug or an educational program designed to help people avoid a certain disease. The NIH writes about what they want done and let the world know that there’s a pile of money available to do it. Applicants apply, screeners screen, reviewers review, and your money gets doled out.
How much? NIH’s budget is approximately $30 billion, which accounts for about 20 cents out of every research dollar the federal government spends (a lot of money, yes, but only about 1% of the overall U.S. budget) so if you’re a U.S. citizen you have some skin in this game. So do I, so does everybody. Last year I put my skin, literally, into it, as a reviewer for the euphonious PAR-06-549: NCRR Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) (R25) mostly because it sounded like a worthwhile endeavor, but in part because I wanted to know how my…and your…money gets spent. In this series of posts, I’ll tell you what I learned. FYI, I’m going to title these all in a similar fashion, kind of like “Harry Potter and the…”. That way if you don’t care how this sort of thing happens, you’ll know exactly which posts to avoid.
Next: Conflict avoidance