My Take on Obama’s Moonshot

Kumar Thangudu

January 15, 2016

tl;dr: Give scientists long term sustained cash.

I sat through Obama’s moonshot Cancer talk again. I think his sentiment is in the right place, but his scientific problem /organizational competency is completely misplaced.

Pushing large cash into this problem is unlikely to make the problem easier.

2013, POTUS pushed the BRAIN initiative.
2015, POTUS pushed the Personalized Medicine Initiative.

It’s more shit and more meetings for researchers/scientists already working hard on the problem at hand that they have to wade through. I remember meeting a bunch of people who worked for the NIH about a year ago.

(I used to work for the head of NIST’s CIRMS – Counsel on Ionizing Radiation Measurements & Standards and NIH folks used to hang around.)

To keep scientists happy and working on cancer, just keep the researchers steadily supplied with cash for years rather than jerking them around to meetings, conferences, grant proposals, and other such habdashery.

The Mythical Man Month also applies to really tough biochemistry issues.(Cough cough Cancer)

You see lots of new scientists will get hired, but then once the grants dry up, they get axed. I remember witnessing this multiple times growing up in Houston.

Kickass scientists just want persistent, long term, sustained, growing funding not large massive one time cash infusions.

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