Harold Varmus, director of the National Cancer Institute, sent this email today to “NCI staff, grantees, advisors, reviewers and others,” warning of increasingly damaging effects the ongoing federal government shutdown will have on cancer research and treatment at NCI. Even worse than the litany of known, present harm, is this grim prediction: the damage won’t end when the government reopens.
A copy of this email was provided by a Boing Boing reader who was one of the recipients:
I am writing to keep you abreast of the ways in which the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and its extramural and intramural research programs have been — and are likely to be — affected by the current shutdown of the federal government. And I am also writing to ask for your help in responding to the difficult situation that we are likely to face when the government is reopened.
As you have doubtless seen in the media, if not experienced directly, the NCI, along with the rest of the NIH, has been obliged to place on furlough many valuable employees, presently about 80 percent of our staff. While all components of the NCI have furloughed many personnel, most of those we have been able to exempt from furlough are in our intramural programs and needed to preserve ongoing research protocols, ensure laboratory safety, care for experimental animals, and, especially, serve our patients at the Clinical Research Center. This situation has been hard for everyone, particularly for many of our trainees, who have been told to limit their activities on campus to those permitted during the shutdown. They, like regular staff members, are unable to travel to scientific meetings or to perform much of the research they came to NCI to do.
Grants to fight cancer are beginning to be compromised by the shutdown. None will be processed until the shutdown is over. hen like dealing with 300 emails after eing out of the office foe a few days, it will take some time to get rid of the backlog. More delay just to begin processing.
And then, there will be more delay in the entire process.
Furthermore, NCI’s Division of Extramural Activities (DEA) has postponed until undetermined dates several site visits to evaluate re-competing centers and large grant applications, and it has postponed more than a dozen meetings to review grant applications. Thus, the NCI’s grant review cycle could be significantly delayed, threatening a smooth restart of NCI’s support of extramural research, even if the NIH reopens relatively soon.
This situation could have serious effects on the review and funding of virtually all NCI programs, including NCI-designated Cancer Centers, program project and SPORE grants, training awards, and individual research project grants. Questions or concerns about these matters should be sent to John Czajkowski, NCI Deputy Director for Management ([email redacted]), or to Dr. Paulette Gray, Director of the Division of Extramural Activities ([email redacted]).
Extramural research is work done at Universities and hospitals, not at the NCI or NIH, which are shut down totally for research. This means that scientists waiting to find out if they will have money next year to pay staff, buy supplies and do experiments may not know for some time.All this time lost will never be recovered.
This will set back the course of cancer research tremendously. These sorts of things cannot just be started back up. Research is not a 9-5, five days a week activity.