Questioning of NIH Sexual Health, AIDS Research ‘Strikes’ at Scientific Peer Review Process, Editorial Says
Congress' investigation of hundreds of NIH-funded research projects included on a list prepared by the Traditional Values Coalition is an "attempt to curtail scientific scrutiny of legitimate public health issues" that "strikes at the heart of the widely accepted and admired peer review process," a San Francisco Chronicle editorial says. All of the grants were for research regarding sex, sexual orientation or HIV/AIDS, the Chronicle says (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/23). In what many said was a mix-up, a congressional staff member last month sent NIH a list of more than 200 grants representing more than $100 million in funding instead of a shorter list of 10 grants that conservative House members have questioned for several months. The longer list was prepared by TVC, which says it represents 43,000 churches nationwide. As a result of the longer list being sent, NIH began calling researchers whose grants were on the list as part of a report for Congress on broad categories of grants (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/30). Upon learning of the mishap, the committee said that it was "an innocent mistake"; however, such an explanation "now looks laughable" because the committee "never told the NIH to abandon its review," the editorial says. NIH next week is expected to send a letter to Congress that will "reaffirm the public health importance" of the grants on the list and will "stand behind our peer review process," according to NIH spokesperson John Burklow, the editorial notes. Although that will "be a good start in repairing the damage," NIH's leadership "must publicly affirm how it awards grants and declare that political interference from any interest group will not contaminate scientific research in the United States," the editorial concludes (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.