The White House - Press Office - President Obama Announces Intent to Nominate Francis Collins as NIH Director

The White House - Press Office - President Obama Announces Intent to Nominate Francis Collins as NIH Director

Not much else to say here. Collins is being nominated to run NIH. I personally think Collins will be perfectly capable of running NIH. I have mixed fellings however about whether he is the best pick for the job. What do others think?

8 comments:

  1. I agree. I'm a bit concerned that Collins has been outspoken about being a Christian, with a capital C. On the other hand, he's a great communicator and should do a good job representing NIH to the outside world and to Congress.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Why should the fact that he's a Christian influence the decision of whether he's the right person for the job?

    Is he capable? Did he ever put his personal beliefs get in the way of his science? I don't see any evidence of that.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I guess I should have linked to my previous discussions of Collins and will try to later. But I have no issues with his Christian beliefs and I think that his science has not been influenced by them in any obvious way. However my issue with him is that from his book and from Biologos he makes questionable statements about science in the support of his religious beliefs. In particular he has tried to argue that since science cannot explain certain forms of altruism, then thereofre this supports his religious beliefs. Yet this is the same "god in the gaps" argument that he himself criticizes in his book. So I guess my problem is that he is both illogical about this and that he risks devaluing science and not making it a truly separate endeavor from religion.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I completely agree with Dr. Eisen. I personally feel this is an alarming choice. Dr. Collins seem to have his own personal agenda that he is pursuing and will view scientific results in a subjective manner to fit his own religious beliefs - not the type of person we want leading the NIH.

    ReplyDelete
  5. sigh... Really?

    Can't you just leave it at "he's a great scientist who has shown himself capable of handling very large projects and centers." He's going to be an administrator: communicating, delegating, organizing, lobbying. Does he posses these skills? Judge him on that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well, not sure what you are getting at anonymous. I think without a doubt this is the time to discuss Collins and what might affect his ability to run NIH. If people think that his religious beliefs might interfere with his ability to run NIH, it is a perfectly valid question. The head of NIH is a very important position and we should discuss his skills and style and potential as much as we discuss other nominees for high level positions. As for the skill set you list "administrator: communicating, delegating, organizing, lobbying." as I said I think he will be perfectly capable of running NIH. But I think we should aim as high as possible for this position, and I think it is unquestionably worth discussing if we have selected someone who is going to be great, not just "capable."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Another factor we should consider is the type of science Dr. Collins strongly advocates. He is more of consortium, discovery based approach scientist, as opposed to the traditional hypothesis driven scientist. For a position as important as the director of the NIH I would prefer to see an individual appointed that sees the importance of both approaches to science and is not skewed to support one type of science over the other. If Dr. Collins nomination is approved, which I am sure it will be, it will likely cause a shift towards more group based large science focus for research grants. Whether this is good for science or not can be debated, but one cannot ignore the bias Dr. Collins possesses for this type of science nor the lengths he will go to promote this type of science. For example when sequencing the human genome he touted the research as such: In interviews, he called the effort “the most important and the most significant project that humankind has ever mounted” and predicted it would quickly allow everyone to know the genetic risks for many diseases – From NY Times.

    Most scientists understand just knowing the sequence of one human will not shed light on the genetic changes that contribute to a disease and that most diseases are multifactorial. Additionally, we would need genome sequences of many individuals with a certain type of disease and would need to compare this to a control population to identify mutations associated with that disease. I feel this illustrates the extreme lengths Dr. Collins will go to promote his brand of science.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Considering that the majority of US citizens would agree more with Dr. Collins beliefs than the average scientist's beliefs, I think it might not be a bad decision. This may result in more science funding support from the public and hopefully a shift in the majority of US thinking towards supporting evolution.

    However, I still personally feel a little uneasy about the choice.

    ReplyDelete