This editorial in Nature complains that politicians are interfering with the peer-review process of the NIH.
In a depressingly familiar display of irresponsible politicking, the US House of Representatives has taken aim at three studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Representative Darrell Issa (Republican, California) introduced an amendment killing the projects on 24 July, during a debate on the NIH's 2010 budget. The House passed the amendment by a voice vote.So the politicians were successful at taking away money from researchers that had already been awarded the funds.
Basically, the republicans are taking aim at studies that spend money abroad. They can say all they want that HIV has already been studied (what an ingenious claim), there is still no cure and plenty of people getting infected as we speak.
Issa was unhappy that the studies looked at substance abuse and HIV risk behaviour, and that the subjects were outside the United States. One focused on Russian alcoholics, another on female sex workers in China and a third on female and transgender prostitutes in Thailand. All three passed muster with NIH peer reviewers, and together would cost about $5 million over five years. Issa wanted that money to be spent at home, and complained that HIV had been heavily studied already. But his reasoning is specious: alcoholism, prostitution and HIV do not respect borders, and any behavioural information that could help slow the transmission of HIV is crucial. Some 33 million people are infected worldwide, and a vaccine is nowhere in sight.It seems fitting with the idea that knowledge is as dangerous as it is beneficial, which the conservative Americans live with these years. But before we put all the blame on the republicans (though the notion did come from them), note that the bill was passed in a house with a democrat majority.