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NIH funding level correlates with lower US mortality rates

June 26th, 2009, 09:06 am admin Leave a comment Go to comments

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Government spending and its role in the economy are once again major issues thanks to the financial market bailouts and President Obama’s health care initiative. Government-funded scientific research has made an appearance in this debate, as work funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has been called into question as wasteful and unnecessary. A paper published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (PNAS) takes a look at these issues. Its authors show that increasing NIH funding decreased mortality rates in the US, and they go on to attempt to quantify the economic impact of lives extended by NIH research.

Within the general debate on government spending, federally funded scientific research has been a frequent target of criticism. NIH funding has gotten new levels of scrutiny because the NIH received $8.2 billion as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. For example, Fox News recently ran this hit piece critical review of NIH-funded condom studies. Even NPR’s Marketplace questioned the stimulating effects of NIH funding, stating, “[I]n this kind of funding it’s a little questionable as to how many jobs you’re really creating, because what you’re doing is giving money to university researchers who already have jobs at their universities.” A rebuttal of this misinformed claim was later aired.

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