Forced Break and Government Affairs


Monday morning I decided to sleep a little later and skip my usual morning ride. After the long drive back from Auburn and some follow-up uploading of photos and such, I hadn’t gotten to bed until late. The weather was looking to be fine the rest of the week, so I thought there’d be no harm in skipping another day. Well, that was a bit of a mistake I guess. The sore throat started to make itself obvious around noon on Monday and by evening I knew I was in for a few days, at least, of head cold sMonday morning I decided to sleep a little later and skip my usual morning ride. After the long drive back from Auburn and some follow-up uploading of photos and such, I hadn’t gotten to bed until late. The weather was looking to be fine the rest of the week, so I thought there’d be no harm in skipping another day. Well, that was a bit of a mistake I guess. The sore throat started to make itself obvious around noon on Monday and by evening I knew I was in for a few days, at least, of head cold symptoms. I ventured out Tuesday morning anyway, but played it safe and turned back after only ten miles. Things kind of went downhill during the day yesterday, so I skipped this morning as well since there’s really no way to ride the WeMoRi without aspirating whatever virulent slime might be dripping down the back of your throat, or for that matter, the throats of the two riders ahead of you as well. So this morning I’m in a restless contemplative mode and was glad to see the announcement in Tulane News about one of our researchers getting an NIH Outstanding Investigator Award. With all of the often well-deserved government-bashing that dominates the daily news, not to mention the incessant but questionable din of pseudo-news on Facebook and Twitter, it was particularly nice to see something good happening. NIH is one of the few federal agencies that the current administration didn’t mess with very much. It’s still led by Francis Collins, a real-live MD-PhD research scientist. Although the President’s budget annually proposes a stagnant budget for NIH, Congress, yes, that same body of lawmakers who haven’t managed to actually approve an actual Appropriations Bill since they threw their only real bargaining chip, the much-maligned Earmark, out the window, keeps nudging their budget upward bit by bit anyway. Meanwhile, up in Bethesda, there are actual federal employees who actually care about actual biomedical research, and some of those actual federal employees actually do understand how university-based scientific research works. One new thing they came up with recently was the NIH Outstanding Investigator Award. It’s kind of a leap of faith for a government entity to do this kind of thing where they intentionally back away from micro-management. It’s right in line with the “hire good people, give them what they need, and leave them the hell alone” philosophy that I have always supported. The OIA awards are “intended to allow investigators the opportunity to take greater risks, be more adventurous in their lines of inquiry, or take the time to develop new techniques.”  How about that? Here we are with the current administration doing its best to kill off support for graduate education, turn universities into trade schools, and generally make it harder for people to even go to college at all, and down in the trenches of the National Institutes of Health there is still the wisdom to give $6 million to an established researcher with a great track record, and basically say, “Here’s a pile of money. We trust you to use it wisely, do great things, and make our country, and maybe even the world, better.”  Imaging that. With that, I’ll go back to work where I will no doubt read about more and more federal insanity, and hope this head cold resolves itself before I have to drive up to the University of Arkansas this weekend for another collegiate race.

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