Suppose you needed to have a CT scan for a sudden, severe headache and partial loss of vision and your doctor asked a nutritionist to read it, rather than a radiologist. Would you trust the diagnosis? Evaluation by a different — and what most would consider a lesser — standard is essentially how a significant amount of research funding is approved by one component of the National Institutes of Health.
Let me step back for a minute before plunging ahead. Federally funded scientific research runs the gamut from studies of basic physical and biological processes to the development of applications to meet immediate needs, such as the development of a universal flu vaccine or clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease. Government funding is especially essential for providing the scientific knowledge that underlies new medical treatments. The NIH, the nation’s major funder of nonmilitary research, has generally been a reliable supporter of high-quality research, conducted at its Bethesda, Md., campus and at universities and research institutes across the U.S.