Monday, February 18, 2013

Why UW-Madison Isn't Likely to Restrain Ned Kalin

In the old days, a state university was funded primarily by state taxes and tuition. But not anymore.

In the old days, a university like the University of Wisconsin, Madison had to pay attention to what taxpayers thought about them. But not anymore.

Today, they don't give a shit. They don't have to.

Today, money pours in from the federal government and taxpayers have little if any say about where it goes. Bureaucracies grow ever larger, and the pork grows a little fatter every year.

A research university like UW-Madison is actually a shopping mall of sorts. The university owns the buildings, hardware, and the animals, and then rents out space, tools, and animals to the individual labs, and then skims a healthy percentage off the top when someone in the lab lands a taxpayer-funded grant.

The university's take, in the case of government funded research, is a percentage of the dollars that flow into the labs from federal grants, the so-called indirect costs. The percentage that is skimmed off varies from mall to mall; at UW-Madison it's about 50%.

It's pretty easy to see why a scientist who has a one time $100,000 a grant has less weight to throw around than someone bringing in $1,000,000 every year.

This helps explain why someone like Ned Kalin can get his way and why the university oversight committee members give their approval to use methods that at least some of them they feel are cruel.

So how much money from federal grants -- your money, my money -- flows into the university to pay for Ned Kalin's experiments?

In the old days, I could state with some certainty and precision what that amount was. The NIH maintained publicly accessible databases that were easy to search and seemed to be accurate.

Today, not so much.

The website that should help taxpayers find this information is the NIH's Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT). In fact, the website's search tool, RePORTER claims that:
RePORTER satisfies a legislative mandate included in the NIH Reform Act of 2006 to provide the public with an electronic system to search NIH research projects using a variety of codes, including public health area of interest, and provide information on publications and patents resulting from NIH-funded research.
The tool has lots of little windows you can fill in. If you search "Projects & Publications" from, say, 1995 to the present, for Kalin's grants you'll see that he has one, two, or three studies. The dollar amount is for the most recent listed fiscal year. These are the three reported grants:

2 R01 MH046729 18A1 DEVELOPMENT AND REGULATION OF EMOTION IN PRIMATES KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2012 NIMH $640,891. [Note: the 18 in that 18A1 code at the end signifies that the grant is in its 18th year of continual funding.]

5 P50 MH084051 05 0001 DEVELOPMENTAL MECHANISMS UNDERLYING THE RISK TO DEVELOP ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2012 NIMH $343,636.

5 R21 MH092581 02 BRAIN MECHANISMS UNDERLYING CHILDHOOD GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2013 NIMH $203,175.

So, it looks like he might have brought in about $1,000,000 in 2012, which means that the university was able to pocket about $500,000.

But, as I stated above, this new search tool isn't like the old tools. Searching for funded studies for Ned Kalin doesn't turn up all of Ned Kalin's funded studies since 2005.

For instance, it misses these:

5 R01 MH081884 04 BRAIN MECHANISMS MEDIATING GENETIC RISK FACTORS FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2011 NIMH $1,125,836.

5 R21 MH091550 02 COMBINING MOUSE AND MONKEY MODELS TO UNDERSTAND HUMAN RISK FOR PSYCHOPATHOLOGY KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2012 NIMH $222,750.

And these:

5 P51 RR000167 50
7854 EMOTIONAL PROCESSING KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2011 NCRR $156,368.

5 P51 RR000167 50
7891 NEUROBEHAVIORAL BASES OF EMOTION REGULATION AND DYSREGULATION IN ADOLESCENCE KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2011 NCRR $105,567.

5 P51 RR000167 50
7892 BRAIN MECHANISMS MEDIATING GENETIC RISK FACTORS FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2011 NCRR $333,941.

5 P51 RR000167 49
5070 EMOTIONAL PROCESSING KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2010 NCRR $30,981.

5 P51 RR000167 49
5150 NEUROBEHAVIORAL BASES OF EMOTION REGULATION AND DYSREGULATION IN ADOLESCENCE KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2010 NCRR $30,981.

5 P51 RR000167 49 5151 BRAIN MECHANISMS MEDIATING GENETIC RISK FACTORS FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2010 NCRR $30,981.

And who knows what else.

Finding this data is no longer a simple matter of knowing the address for a website. I doubt that the average citizen, the purported intended user of the RePORTER search tool would have much of a chance of discovering where their money is spent or the actual amount that flows into a university as the result of some vivisector's success at grant writing.

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