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NIH grant funding decisions: Reality vs. antivax conspiracies

Earlier this month, the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a plan to decrease the problem of reputational bias in grant funding. I couldn’t help but contrast how hard the NIH tries to use the most rigorous scientific criteria to decide whose grants to fund with the conspiracy theory that Anthony Fauci personally doles out NIH dollars like a mob boss to scientists who support him.

As a surgeon-scientist who has over the years applied for more research grants than I can currently remember from various funding agencies, including the NIH and other federal entities, I sometimes like to discuss how the NIH determines which grants to fund given that the current budget only allows the NIH to fund roughly 10% of the grant applications that it receives every year. (This is, unfortunately, a situation that has persisted for many years now, despite increases in the NIH budget.) After all, I have submitted far more grant applications to fund my lab to the NIH, the Department of Defense (which, little known to most people, actually funds a fair amount of cancer research), and other agencies than have ever been funded. (I will keep my percent success rate a secret, but it’s fairly low, which is not uncommon among investigators.)

I also realize that a lot of these discussions might seem to be a bit too “inside baseball” for many readers—which is why I predict relatively few comments compared to, for example, posts about Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Nuremberg 2.0 or crank fights— but I consider them important nonetheless. This is because since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many conspiracy theories that have cropped up that portray the NIH granting process as based on, in essence, Anthony Fauci—or the NIH director—personally deciding whose grant applications receive funding and only doling out funds to researchers who support with the “government line,” like a mob boss doling out favors to underlings in return for favors done him. Basically, such conspiracy theorists cannot imagine any government institution providing research money to any group opposed to its messaging, or funding any research whose results might not line up with the message “the government” wants to promote.

I rather suspect that the origin of this misconception about how NIH grants are funded, which has always existed but only reached the consciousness of the public outside of antivax conspiracy bubbles since the pandemic hit, comes from projection. Basically, antivax conspiracy theorists who portray Anthony Fauci and the NIH as doling out grant funds to reward supporters and withholding them to punish “dissidents” is exactly how conspiracy theorists would determine whose research is funded and whose is not. They therefore assume that this is how the NIH has always done it. With the pandemic, and Anthony Fauci becoming a major face representing the government response to COVID-19, naturally they personalized this, in particular in light of various “lab leak” conspiracy theories that claim that Fauci funded research in Wuhan that led to the creation of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. I’m not going into the weeds of whether the research carried out at Wuhan was truly “gain of function” research (although it does not appear to have been); rather I’m going to focus on how antivax and COVID-19-minimizing sources portrayed grants to Wuhan as having been granted by Fauci personally, such as a story in WorldNetDaily last year titled “New evidence ties COVID-19 creation to research funded by Fauci?” Let’s just say that this histrionic headline was…not accurate.

Even though I have argued on occasion that, whatever its flaws, the NIH grant selection process is about as close to a true meritocracy as any government agency gets, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of room for improvement. “As close to a true meritocracy” does not in this case mean anywhere near close enough. One common criticism of NIH granting processes dating back decades is that the study sections that evaluate and score grant applications based on scientific merit are too “conservative” and tend to favor “safe” research that might produce incremental results but nothing ground-breaking. Unsurprisingly, this is a problem that is perceived, at least, to be much worse in times of tight funding, when the top 10% or less of grant applications are funded. After all, when funds are tight, study sections feel less comfortable supporting research that is more likely to go nowhere and thereby “waste” NIH funds.

Indeed, years before the pandemic, I took issue with John Ioannidis, who made this very argument, railing against how the NIH supposedly favored “conformity” and “mediocrity”. Let’s just say that, although I see some merit in these arguments, I also strongly believe that the critics who make them have a rather exaggerated view of the supposed “brave mavericks” who are missing out on NIH funding supposedly because they are too brilliant, creative, and “outside the box” and have pointed out that the anecdotes used to make this argument are often missing important context that makes NIH decisions not to fund the work more understandable. (In one case, this involved the knowledge that other scientists were having trouble replicating the experimental results used to support the grant application.) Then there is the issue of how study sections would choose between high risk “outside the box” studies to fund, given that such studies almost by definition don’t have a lot of preliminary evidence to support them and it’s hard to judge how plausible the hypotheses being tested are to pick out the most promising study the most likely to lead to a major breakthrough. (A lot of the anecdotes used to support funding “riskier” research often suffer from selective memory and major hindsight bias.) That is, however, a discussion that I’ve had before and an updated version could be a topic for another day.

What led me to want to discuss how NIH grants are funded is another shortcoming in the NIH review process, prompted by a story published a week ago in Nature about a proposal to change the way that NIH grants are scored in order to remove what is known as “reputational bias”, one form of bias in grant scoring that inarguably does still exist. In brief, this form of bias was documented in a January 2022 NIH analysis, which found that the 10% of institutions that receive the most money from the agency get about 65% of its overall funding for research projects and the bottom half receives less than 5%, proportions that have remained persistent for years. Of course, researchers not at the “top” schools have known this for decades, referring to it as how the “rich get richer”.

First, however, let’s look at the NIH grant process.

How an NIH grant is reviewed

Contrary to the conspiracist vision of Anthony Fauci—or any other Institute director at NIH, or even the NIH director him or herself —personally viewing every grant application and deciding who gets those sweet, sweet NIH dollars and who does not, there is a long-defined, rigorous, and codified process used by the NIH to evaluate grants applications. It begins with the submission of a grant to the NIH. Before I discuss what happens next, I will note that the NIH has a number of granting mechanisms designed for different purposes. For example, the R21 grant is designed for preliminary work, often the “higher risk” studies that the brave mavericks demand, and doesn’t require a lot of preliminary data. (The claim that it can require no preliminary data, however, is generally nonsense. You need at least some data.) R21s can fund up to two years and cannot be renewed.

In contrast, the granddaddy of them all, the “gold standard” grant for an individual investigator, small groups of co-investigators, or collaborators, is the R01, which can be funded for up to five years (it’s also one of the only grant mechanisms where the investigator can propose basically anything, rather than having to address a particular topic or question). At the end of that time, the investigator can apply for a competitive renewal, which can extend the grant for up to another five years, and so on ad infinitum. There are a number of other grant mechanisms, which include training grants for graduate students, center grants (e.g., for cancer centers), larger multi-investigator grants, and more targeted grants—Wikipedia has a nice list here—but in general all of them are scored by groups of scientists with the relevant expertise in a review group called a study section, of which there are dozens in the NIH arranged by topic into Review Branches at the Center for Scientific Review. Many of these study sections are permanent, but the NIH can and does set up temporary study sections for topics of special interest at the time.

NIH grants generally undergo two levels of review, first the study section and then advisory councils. To guide the reviews, the NIH has five criteria that it uses to evaluate grant applications:

  • Significance
  • Investigator(s)
  • Innovation
  • Approach
  • Environment

Other considerations include “Additional Review Criteria”:

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will evaluate the following additional items while determining scientific and technical merit and in providing an overall impact score, but will not give separate scores for these items.
  • Study Timeline (specific to applications involving clinical trials)
  • Protections for Human Subjects
  • Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children
  • Vertebrate Animals
  • Biohazards
  • Resubmission
  • Renewal
  • Revision
Additional Review Considerations. As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will consider each of the following items, but will not give scores for these items and should not consider them in providing an overall impact score.
  • Applications from Foreign Organizations
  • Select Agent
  • Resource Sharing Plans
  • Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources
  • Budget and Period Support

Grants undergo anonymous peer review, and usually each application is reviewed by three or four reviewers, with one of them being a statistician where appropriate. Those assigned to do the detailed reviews score each of the above areas from 1-9, although in this case low scores are better, denoting high impact/priority, and then assign an overall impact score to the grant application. During the study section meeting, the study section member assigned as primary reviewer starts the discussion with a summary of the grant application, the score assigned to it, and why that score was assigned. Then the others who evaluated each grant application do the same, after which the whole study section discusses the application. At the end, every member assigns an overall impact score to the grant under discussion before moving on to the next application. After the study section meeting, all the impact scores are used to calculate a final overall Priority Score assigned to the grant application. Also, the membership rosters of the study sections are public knowledge, as they are published on the CSR website; so it’s not uncommon for investigators who got a bad review among their reviews to make a good guess about who was responsible.

Although I’ve never served as a permanent member of an NIH study section, I have served as an ad hoc member for specific expertise. (Ad hoc members generally serve for only one or a handful of grant review cycles, rather than being assigned for multi-year stints.) As such, I can only comment on the dynamics of study sections in which I’ve participated. One thing that I’ve noticed is that it only takes one highly negative review from a reviewer who is outspoken to tank an application. I’ve also noted that someone who really likes a grant application can sway others to score it lower, but the effect seems a bit weaker than “negative campaigning” does.

Obviously, environment is the criteria most subject to reputational bias, because it requires the reviewer to determine if the university or institution at which the research is to be performed has the facilities and expertise to give the proposed project the highest chance of success. Naturally, being at a university like Harvard, Yale, or Stanford (for example) will provide an investigator an inherent advantage, because such universities have more resources and expertise than mid- or lower-tier universities.

When an individual grant application hits the NIH, it will be assigned to a study section. Investigators can influence this process by suggesting study sections, and, unsurprisingly, some study sections have reputations for being harsher than others. Once a grant is assigned to a study section, that study section’s Scientific Review Officer (SRO) will read it, decide if it’s appropriate for the study section, and assign reviewers:

Assignment of Applications to Specific Reviewers: The SRO assigns applications to particular reviewers by matching the science in the application to the reviewer’s expertise. Assignment considerations include: reviewer knowledge about, and interest in, the goals of the project; expertise in the techniques proposed; reviewer workload; and real or perceived conflicts of interest. The SRO encourages reviewers to let him/her know of any concerns that they have about their assignments. This would include conflicts of interest, concerns about the appropriateness of the assignment, or the need for additional expertise.

The SRO also recruits scientists to serve on the study section, thusly:

Identifying and Recruiting Reviewers: Possibly the most important role of the SRO is to ensure that the reviewers present at the study section meeting have all the needed expertise to evaluate the applications under review.

In choosing regular members for study sections, it is essential that the SRO recognizes current trends in the field and ensures that the membership reflects where the field is now and where it is going. It is also critical that the expertise of each nominee complements that of the other members and strengthens the study section as a whole.

As you can see, the SRO is a big deal.

The SRO also runs the study section meeting, collates the reviews, takes notes, and from those notes and the overall reviews produces a Summary Statement that includes the overall Priority Score assigned (with a percentile measurement denoting the percentage of grant applications that were scored higher than the applicant’s), comments about the discussion at the study section, and the original “raw” reviews from each study section member who reviewed the grant. Note that now generally only grants that score in the top one-third to one-half receive overall Priority Scores and Summary Statements, because any grant with higher (and therefore worse) scores are so unlikely to be funded as to make it not worth the SRO’s effort to put the documents together. These investigators do, however, still receive the reviews carried out by individual study section members. SROs also handle appeals from applicants who question whether their review was fair or whether one or more of the reviewers had the requisite expertise.

The second level of review occurs through committees formed at each Institute and Center (IC) at the NIH called Advisory Councils:

The Advisory Council/Board of the potential awarding Institute/Center performs the second level of review (See Advisory Councils or Boards). Advisory Councils/Boards are composed of scientists from the extramural research community and public representatives (NIH Federal Advisory Committee Information). Members are chosen by the respective IC and are approved by the Department of Health and Human Services. For certain committees, members are appointed by the President of the United States.

Now here’s the part where the conspiracy might come in:

Recommendation Process
  • NIH program staff members examine applications and consider the overall impact scores given during the peer review process, percentile rankings (if applicable) and the summary statements in light of the Institute/Center’s priorities.
  • Program staff provide a grant-funding plan to the Advisory Board/Council. Council members have access to applications and summary statements pending funding for that IC in that council round.
  • Council members conduct a Special Council Review of grant applications from investigators who currently receive $1 million or more in direct costs of NIH funding to support Research Project Grants (see NOT-OD-12-140). This additional review is to determine if additional funds should be provided to already well-supported investigators and does not represent a cap on NIH funding.
  • The Advisory Council/Board also considers the Institute/Center’s goals and needs and advises the Institute/Center director concerning funding decisions.
  • The Institute/Center director makes final funding decisions based on staff and Advisory Council/Board advice

It’s that last part that the conspiracy theorists harp on. In theory, an Institute director like Anthony Fauci could override all the peer review to fund a grant, but in practice it almost never happens. Why? Because the NIH set up this process in order to minimize the possibility direct involvement of its leaders in picking and choosing grant awardees based on personal whim. The whole system exists to try to ensure as much as possible that grant selection is based on scientific merit, and few other considerations.

I won’t go through the whole appeals process, other than to say that appeals rarely succeed. I also won’t say that politics and the personal preferences of various Institute/Center (IC) directors never play a role in grant funding decisions, but I will say that the system is set up to minimize that role. Also, often the people who most characterize NIH funding decisions as the personal doling out of funding by directors are the same ones who have no compunction about trying to shut down research they don’t like themselves—and have been for a long time.

Minimizing reputational bias

With that background in hand, let’s take a look at what the NIH is proposing to do now to decrease reputational bias in its funding decisions. According to Nature:

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released a tentative plan to change how its research grant applications are scored, with the aim of reducing bias and lowering the burden on reviewers. Under the new system, reviewers would no longer rate researchers’ expertise or their institutions’ access to resources, and there would be fewer scoring criteria overall. The NIH’s Center for Scientific Review (CSR), which organizes the peer-review groups that evaluate more than 90% of the research grants awarded by the agency, announced these proposed changes at a meeting on 8 December attended by Lawrence Tabak, acting NIH director, and a panel of his advisers. The revamp has not yet been finalized, and any changes would not be implemented until 2024 at earliest.

So here is the main proposed change:

Reviewers currently score NIH research proposals according to five criteria: significance, investigator(s), innovation, approach and environment (where the research will be carried out). These criteria are defined by US legislation, so the NIH cannot modify them without approval from lawmakers, but it can change the way they’re interpreted or scored. The new system doesn’t throw out the old criteria, but groups them into three categories: the importance of the research, its feasibility and rigour, and the expertise and resources of the researcher and their institution. Byrnes says that the last category, which won’t be scored under the proposal, is frequently misinterpreted. Reviewers sometimes score applicants and their institutions without considering them in the context of the proposed research — the original intention of the category. This has led to higher scores for prestigious institutions and individuals. Under the proposal, rather than score this category, reviewers would choose whether they think researcher expertise or institutional resources are adequate or not. If they select the latter, they can leave specific feedback about deficiencies in a text box on the review form. This will “prevent reviewers from waxing poetic about a really famous investigator that tilts the evaluation of the science”, Byrnes says.

Again, the “rich get richer” applies not just to high-reputation universities and institutions, but to individual researchers. Indeed, in 2017 the NIH proposed a plan to limit how many NIH grants any one individual researcher could hold at any one time, the idea being to “spread the wealth around” more after a report had shown that 10% of grant recipients received 40% of NIH grant funding. While it is expected that top researchers would be more effective at competing for research grants and would thus have more funding than recipients who were not as top tier, the NIH thought the disparity was too great and also wanted to direct more funding to young scientists in order to nurture the next generation. These concerns led to a proposal that applications from scientists who already controlled more than $1.5 million in NIH grants undergo an additional layer of review, a situation that only applied to 5% of grant awardees. The pushback was so fierce that the NIH ultimately backed down and scrapped the proposal. Instead, it The NIH announced the creation of a special fund drawn from its existing budget to be targeted at early- and mid-career scientists in an attempt to lower the average age of the researchers it supports.

In any event, here’s what the NIH proposes, specifically, with respect to its proposed simplified review criteria:

NIH proposes to reorganize the five review criteria into three factors, with Factors 1 and 2 receiving a numerical score. Reviewers will be instructed to consider all three factors (Factors 1, 2 and 3) in arriving at their Overall Impact Score (scored 1-9), reflecting the overall scientific and technical merit of the application.
  • Factor 1: Importance of the Research (Significance, Innovation), numerical score (1-9)
  • Factor 2: Rigor and Feasibility (Approach), numerical score (1-9)
  • Factor 3: Expertise and Resources (Investigator, Environment), assessed and considered in the Overall Impact Score, but not individually scored
Within Factor 3 (Expertise and Resources), Investigator and Environment will be assessed in the context of the research proposed. Investigator(s) will be rated as “fully capable” or “additional expertise/capability needed”. Environment will be rated as “appropriate” or “additional resources needed.” If a need for additional expertise or resources is identified, written justification must be provided. Detailed descriptions of the three factors can be found here.

Unsurprisingly, some scientists are not thrilled with the changes:

Some advisers attending the 8 December meeting pushed back on the plan, suggesting that researchers and institutional resources are crucial factors in determining the merit of research projects. “I do think there’s some value in some objective score to assess the investigator,” said Shelley Berger, an epigeneticist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Without a score, Berger added, it could be difficult to understand the reviewer’s thinking and how they factored researcher expertise into their decision. Speaking at the meeting, Byrnes countered that reviewers would still have the option to leave comments about their concerns, which could be reflected in the overall impact score.

Personally, having reviewed grants, I see this as more or less a non-issue. If specific reviewers are savvy enough to know the capabilities of a given institution and whether they align with what is required to successfully complete the proposed project, then I see no reason under the new framework that they can’t state that and factor it into their overall impact score. More importantly, as I’ve discovered, mid-tier universities often have specific strengths, just not as many subject areas of strength as the “top tier” universities, but they are not infrequently penalized just based on their overall reputation compared to, say, Harvard or Stanford.

Of course, there are those who think this proposal doesn’t go far enough:

Although some critics appreciate that the agency is trying to eliminate reputational bias, they say the proposed changes do not address the root of funding disparities at the NIH. Omolola Eniola-Adefeso, a biomedical engineer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who co-authored a 2021 article calling on the NIH to fund more Black scientists1, tellsNature

that, to have a tangible impact, more diversity is needed among reviewers. She cites a landmark analysis published more than a decade ago2, which found that Black researchers were significantly less likely to receive NIH research funding compared with white researchers, even when factors such as scientific credentials and employer were taken into account. This means efforts to lessen the impact of reputational bias might not translate to more equitable funding, she says. In addition to considering the race and gender of reviewers, ensuring that panels have representation from under-represented institutions could have a big impact, says Enrique Neblett, a public-health researcher at the University of Michigan. Given the persistence of funding disparities, the NIH needs to take bolder action, he says.

I know what some “purists” are going to say here, namely that scientific merit should be the be-all and end-all of determining who gets NIH grants. (Actually, they’ll say worse, but I’m being kind.) While I’m sympathetic to such an argument in the abstract, I also realize that the NIH is nonetheless an agency of the US government. I also realize that there is no such thing as true “colorblindness” when it comes to functions like evaluating grant applications, as can be seen from findings that disparities in funding success persist even when credentials and institution are taken into account. It’s a delicate balancing act between maintaining the scientific rigor of the process while promoting polices that can benefit society by supporting younger researchers and diversifying the scientific workforce, both of which can contribute to better science funded by the NIH in the future that addresses the problems in medicine and public health most relevant to our population.

Reality versus conspiratorial fantasy

One thing that this whole debate over how best to allocate limited NIH funding to scientists submitting grant proposals should dispel is the notion that the system in any way resembles the fantasy version portrayed by antivax conspiracy theorists, quacks, and grifters. Just because they view everything through a strictly transactional lens and can’t imagine any government institution not operating basically the same way does not mean that that’s how the NIH works. The NIH grant process has a lot of shortcomings, but it really does strive to be as much of a meritocracy as possible while at least not undermining societal goods, such as a more diverse workforce and supporting young scientists so that they don’t abandon biomedical research because they can’t obtain funding to support their laboratories and research programs. The proposed changes in NIH grant review criteria seek to strike this balance while maintaining scientific rigor.

What the proposed changes should help to emphasize is that the NIH, for all the deficiencies both real and exaggerated in its study section system, is constantly seeking ways to change the application process so that the most scientifically impactful and meritorious grants receive funding, even if a lot of meritorious grants do not, simply because there is not enough funding. Being a system set up by humans, the NIH will never achieve a perfect system for funding grants. However, contrary to the conspiracy theory, the NIH is set up to try to minimize the effects of IC directors (or anyone else) picking winners and losers based on a quid pro quo or personal whim, and that’s one of the things that makes the NIH great.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

85 replies on “NIH grant funding decisions: Reality vs. antivax conspiracies”

Are you seriously trying to tell me that the “vax” mandate for employees at Johns Hopkins University has no connection whatsoever with the institution’s status as the #1 recipient of NIH funding? I couldn’t find an institution without a vax mandate in the top 10. Are there any institutions that have both received NIH grants AND leave personal medical decisions vis à vis covid “vaccination” to the discretion of their employees? The ability of this blog to ignore the obvious corruption of public institutions through corporate capture never fails to astound. The elimination of an entire group from funding consideration undermines the argument that there is no inherent bias in the process (and that’s only the tip of the iceberg).

It might be time to re-read Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent. It is unnecessary to postulate a “conspiracy” when people with opposing viewpoints are quite simply never hired (or in this case never receive funding) in the first place.

john, merely saying “A and B happened together therefore my brain fever induced conspiracy is correct” is just as bogus an “argument” as your favorite: “B followed A therefore A caused B, so checkmate science”.

you, lucas, igor, chaos I, and the other morons who lie about vaccines and the studies you don’t like don’t have any data on your side, and trying to argue it away by saying “they’re all corrupt” doesn’t fly (it’s just “proof by assertion”, worthless in mathematics, worthless here).

If A causes B we won’t know because the evidence is censored, it would be too late to undo the injury and I’d be the one injured and liable for medical costs. Therefore my presumption until balance returns is that A caused B.

If I understand you ‘logic’:
– You don’t know if A causes B;
– You don’t trust the evidence (especially those publishing results that contradict your beliefs);
– So you just decide that what you believe is true.
Sounds very ‘scientific’ to me…

“some folks slipped”

No one slipped. The AEs were documented. The rest of the story of “other doctors having similar adverse events” is utter bull but you swallowed it because you’re so incredibly biased.

If A causes B we won’t know because the evidence is censored, it would be too late to undo the injury and I’d be the one injured and liable for medical costs. Therefore my presumption until balance returns is that A caused B.

Could you meatball that into the formulation of the Begriffsschrift?

“Incorrect. I don’t give weight to evidence from a corrupt system”

Unfortunately, the ‘corrupt’ system produced all the data you spin to suit your feelings. So, either you DO give weight to the evidence or you don’t have any data.

Personally I don’t give weight to evidence from people without relevant qualifications. When I do listen to people with relevant qualifications, I assume that whatever most of them agree on is most supported by evidence, most of the time. If you’re gonna argue with that experience, you’d better had the chops to lay down some serious working.

@john labarge I notice hat all goverments in the world are part of conspiracy, even than some of them are very bad enimies of each other. Curious, this

Aarno Syvänen:

Did Phelps search for compensation

I haven’t seen any media reports that she (or her wife) did, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t.

From what I’ve seen of her claims, I don’t think that they would be covered by the Australian COVID vaccine compensation scheme.

Sounds like a good reason not to get the Covid vax. That and the survival rate of the current strain being something like 99.9%

Hey some folks slipped

My trigeminal neuralgia pain is kicking my ass right now so that may be the reason, but I have no idea what that phase is supposed to mean.

You clearly expose yourself as someone who does not understand the scientific process. One does not “agree” or “disagree” with science. One accepts it until the evidence proves otherwise. Therefore, vaccines are safe and employment mandates are appropriate and in the interest of public health. Personal medical decisions made without regard to science must also suffer the personal consequences of those (uninformed) decisions.

And who pays for hospitalizations due to the vax or is it up to the person mandated to get the emergency use treatment to prove that it caused said hospitalization?

To be fair to John, it doesn’t seem like CICP will just take their word for it. However, he has expressed a wish for people to sue the manufacturers directly, so this would be like a practice run.

Are you seriously trying to tell me that the “vax” mandate for employees at Johns Hopkins University has no connection whatsoever with the institution’s status as the #1 recipient of NIH funding?

Yes. The only connection is in your deluded mind.

I doubt you understand what that phrase means. Richard Ford does an apt job of describing you and your fellow travelers:

:“Cynicism makes you feel smart, I know it, even when you aren’t smart.”

Careful – use logic too much, and the antivaxxers will decide you’re an evil-doer.

Might it be the case that John Hopkins, and all the other scientific bodies getting funding, all added Covid vaccines to their lists of mandated vaccines for employees simply because as a leading bastion of science they followed the evidence and accepted the best way to ensure good public health measures in the workplace is the add Covid to their list of required vaccines.

Though obviously if you’re a full on AV cultist, such as Johlagabage and CI, then everything is a conspiracy and can be only be understood in terms that reinforce their pre-existing cognitive biases.

Johns Hopkins has held the #1 spot in NIH grants since at least 2015 (that’s as far back as I looked.)
Complain if you will about how the same few institutions get the most grant money, but don’t try to link it to vaccines. That way lies stupidity.

@ Chaos Infusion

You write: “Are you seriously trying to tell me that the “vax” mandate for employees at Johns Hopkins University has no connection whatsoever with the institution’s status as the #1 recipient of NIH funding?”

Yep, “#1 recipient of NIH funding” because they are one of the leading scientific universities in the world, so, given the overwhelming evidence of both the effectiveness and safety of the COVID vaccines, the SCIENCE, thus protecting both the vaccinated and others who either the vaccine didn’t activate their immune systems and/or could not be vaccinated such a mandate is extremely reasonable. Once more, they are a leading science institute, the overwhelming science finds the mRNA Covid vaccines both effective and safe, so, of course, they would mandate it.

And, no, not perfectly safe; but the risk of serious adverse reactions based on reports from all over the world is minuscule compared to the risk from the actual virus.

@ Chaos Confusion

You write: “It might be time to re-read Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent. It is unnecessary to postulate a “conspiracy” when people with opposing viewpoints are quite simply never hired (or in this case never receive funding) in the first place.”

First, the authors are Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. Get it right! Second, the book deals with the press (title: Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of The Mass Media), not science; but it was published in 1988 before the internet which has many online newspapers and magazines of widely different perspectives. And even back in 1988 there were a number of quality smaller newspapers/magazines that one could purchase at a news stand or subscribe to; e.g., The Nation. Third, the press is not scientific. Science is based on objective, verifiable observations that can be replicated. Science has an established universal methodology. And in science one can find results that contradict other results, so if the methodologies are good, then more research is called for. And funding sources include not only the government; but non-profits. And many institutions have funds to use for small research projects, pilot studies, that can be used to then apply for larger funds.

It took me a few minutes to find my copy as I own ca. 4,000 books and, yep, I read it from cover to cover many years ago.

Oh well, as usual, your comments are either off the mark or just meaningless.

Thank you! Great post(s). Rigorous evaluation in words and writing always sways me just much more than a fake fire alarm.

I did learn some about funding so appreciate the blog too.

@ Joel
Actually, Chomsky and Herman, or other ‘critical theory’ works addressing the reproduction of ideology, could be taken as models for a critique of how science institutions operate in the real world. The professional canons of news are not so different from those of science, both enterprises presenting themselves as objective discoverers of “just the facts”.

The key element here, as CI notes (whether fully appreciating or not) is that if such institutions function towards sime undesirable ends, there need be no conspiracy at work at all, merely largely reified systemic biases. Science institutions too, being enmeshed in the human stuff society/economics/politics/culture, have always had such biases, which indeed influence what kind of research gets done, and even what kinds of results get produced. Just for one current hot-button example, think of the science if sexuality and gender…

The question then is how, perhaps more than whether, any of this operates in the case of vaccine policy. Systemic biases aren’t necessarily bad things.

CI’s argument isn’t (surprise!) particularly coherent, tossing corporate capture, corruption, university policy, and government agency funding into a salad chopped up from dubious premises. E.g. as far as I know, any number of academic institutions public and private have antivax and/or COVID denialist faculty/research members on staff and still receive federal funding for med science research (in my neck of the woods both Stanford and UCSF are home to members of DeSantis’ counter-CDC…) “Corruption” sounds a lot like ‘conspiracy’ to me. But even if we grant CI’s not a conspiracy theorist, they’re definitely a cultist, displaying a monomaniacal tendency to view everything through the lens if their peculiar obsession, with blinders screening out everything else: in this case the many other reasons an institution might have for instituting a vaccine mandate other than ‘pandering’ to NIH overlords — like keeping workers producing at their jobs and avoiding negligence lawsuits, not to mention you know just trying to prevent some sickness and death in their community.

the many other reasons an institution might have for instituting a vaccine mandate other than ‘pandering’ to NIH overlords

My university, and department, based actions on advice from people at a local hospital during the worst of the pandemic and is still updating us on information from their hospital contacts. So, for example, we’re no longer required to “mask up” in the classroom but we are advised to accommodate students who do. This semester past I had 4 across my classes who wore masks in class (I never questioned why) and always masked up when they came to my office to talk. If I’m on the pay list for pandering to “big pharma” my checks must have been lost in the mail.

[…] if such institutions function towards sime undesirable ends, there need be no conspiracy at work at all, merely largely reified systemic biases.

One of my favourite bits along those lines, and what really got me started thinking about ‘self-assembling conspiracies’ or whatever you want to call them, was an article I read years ago talking about the JFK assassination. It pointed out that a lot of the obstruction of the investigation didn’t need an actual conspiracy at all; it just needed several politicians who were afraid that any large-scale investigation might also find the skeletons in their closets as a side effect. And finding several corrupt politicians isn’t exactly going to be difficult.

A dozen or more people who never talked to each other but who each have their own personal (and not necessarily even related) reasons for causing problems can still look like a conspiracy from the outside.

@ johnlabarge

You write: “Every fact we don’t like is mere coincidence. Duh.”

If someone has a heart attack, it is a fact; but link it to something else is often a logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc.

The only valid part of your comment is the “Duh” which describes you perfectly.

Everything wrt vaccine injury is really just post hoc ergo propter hoc (because we like to sound smart). Better known as coincidence. Everything indicating any impropriety is of course coincidence as well. Nothing to see; everything the medical establishment does is always perfect and unassailable.

Go do the research, you lazy turd. Oh, wait, you don’t have the first clue about how to go about finding datasets or analyzing them in a valid and repeatable manner, or you know….scientific research.

Limitations in the study

The answers in this study are based on the mothers’ report of menstrual disturbances in their daughters.

There has been a lot of media attention around the signals about menstrual disturbances after coronavirus vaccination, and this may also contribute to awareness among more mothers and/or girls reporting menstrual disturbances after vaccination, even though they may have previously experienced the same without vaccination.

Nothing definitive john, although they’re still studying it, and nothing supporting your “question”.

Do you even read these things? Because if you do you sure don’t seem to understand them.

Do you ever bother reading and considering the things you link to or are you just copying and pasting links from anti-vax blogs with the assumption that they are some sort of solid evidence?

All young women have irregular periods at first. They also avoid telling anyone when they are menstruating. Mothers might be an exception, but not always.

“Does the mRNA stay in the deltoid or not?”

Until you show actual evidence of the mRNA being capable of transport then it just means the resulting spike proteins don’t stay in the deltoid. Why are you focused on the mRNA and not the resulting spike protein? Would the locality of the immune response to some of the spike protein increase the rate of side effects? That’s a possibility. Orac and others would know but JohnLeBorg wouldn’t listen to an expert, anyway.

More than that. The cells that manufacture the spike protein could be anywhere in the body, such as the endothelial or heart.

Actually if A happens after B does not mean A is caused by B. This is not specially smart, it is a quite simple observation.

No, you deluded clown, the data isn’t “censored” or “hidden”. If you can’t support your ignorant and vapid conspiracy theories it must be because the data has been conspired to disappear? Do you realize how stupid that sounds?

Nothing to see; everything the medical establishment does is always perfect and unassailable.

Provide a reference to a post here where anyone has said that [repeating a post where you simply assert someone has said it doesn’t count].

I just wanted to say that I appreciate this long article. It is a great break from the usual and very informative.

Thanks a lot

@ johnlabarge

I guess you missed this in article: “The answers in this study are based on the mothers’ report of menstrual disturbances in their daughters.
There has been a lot of media attention around the signals about menstrual disturbances after coronavirus vaccination, and this may also contribute to awareness among more mothers and/or girls reporting menstrual disturbances after vaccination, even though they may have previously experienced the same without vaccination.”

Not surprising given your continuous dishonest unscientific anti vaccine bias

Does MJD realize that the legit website for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to file for patents and get information related to them is, not uspto dot com?

I seem to recall hearing that the NIH has a checkmark on its funding applications next to the phrase “I have never been laughed at on the Internet”, but I could be mistaken.

You have no credibility or reputation to impugn.

Indeed, “publishing” in Medical Hypotheses is a huge strike against any topic you choose to try to apply.

Does being in auto-moderation at Respectful Insolence (~ 4 years) have an effect on reputational bias.

a) You need a reputation that could be damaged in order for that to be a meaningful question, and you’re lacking one.
b) The fact that you end a question with a period instead of a question mark gives a good indication of why you haven’t built a reputation.

@ Michael J. Dochniak (MJD)

So, you are applying for a research grant. I did a search of National Library of Medicine’s online database PubMed and found only one article from 2007 in journal Medical Hypotheses, which was NOT at the time a peer-reviewed journal and almost no libraries in US even subscribe to it. So, obviously your application can’t be backed with you having any legitimate research experience. And I would be willing to bet that its method section is laughable. But do submit it. I’m sure they need some comic relief.

Good grief, this newer inbreed of antagonistic posters have the mental agility of a rock. No matter what you write upon , they metaphorically crap their diapers on vaccine-related disinformation every time.

Personally I’ve only had NIH-type funding twice (once in grad school and again as a post doc). One of the reasons I didn’t continue research was concerned over the funding mechanisms for NIH grants and this was in the ’90s when funding was very tight. I’m glad things are better in the funding situation from the NIH.

“this newer inbreed of antagonistic posters have the mental agility of a rock”

Stop defaming rocks! I have yet to see a rock write nonsensical rants and otherwise troll on any science based website like these posters do.

Like I said – you don’t trust the evidence (or evidence that don’t support your beliefs). Your justification is immaterial (and somewhat juvenile). Sounds like classic Confirmation bias…
I seem to remember someone saying something about facts that we don’t like being mere coincidence.

A further comment. I have an MBA degree. I was taught, in my behavioral finance class, that people follow incentives, which is often simply money.

I have met a great number of honest people, for example those who would not lie for money.

I have also met a smaller number of less honest people.

Those are the people who would be glad to receive “grants” in exchange for employing nephews of grant reviewers, or being ready to lie about vaccine effectiveness in exchange for receiving grants for researching vaccine effectiveness.

” Second in command at NIAID and Fauci’s soon-to-be replacement, Hugh Auchincloss, has a major conflict of interest—his daughter works for an FDA consulting firm who also advises Big Pharma and helps write regulation strategies for C•19. ”

The “Covid science”, such as the study purporting to demonstrate that the unvaccinated are more prone to car crashes, is full of dishonest people that spread their lies for money.

Nobody would lie for free, remember.

Hopefully, their secrets will be all published and they will receive appropriate sanctions.

The quacks and charlatans who promote unproven, untested (except on 8 mice), and non-working treatments called “covid vaccines” need to be exposed and sidelined.

I have an MBA degree

Oh, so clearly a degree with no discussion of science or statistics [meaningful, nothing past plug/chug] gives you plenty of the expertise needed to evaluate covid and covid vaccine data. /snark

It probably did give you a multitude of ways to lie and advance your own position, methods you’ve been trying out here.

Yeah, you don’t know as much about science as the rest of us.

You can’t even show a flow of money, you just make it up.

The thing about conspiracy theorists and those with low education is that they impose their own biases onto others. So in this case, it’s more like YOU that would do anything for money so it’s easy to believe that about scientists and regulators that would be imprisoned if they were caught taking bribes. YOU somehow think it would be worth it for someone who went through and achieved multiple degrees in science would forsake it all for a very small sum of money. Pathetic.

You don’t recognize your own biases, and that’s why we all make fun of you and the people like you, you’re incapable of being objective and educated.

@ Igor Chudov

You write: “The quacks and charlatans who promote unproven, untested (except on 8 mice), and non-working treatments called “covid vaccines” need to be exposed and sidelined.”

Are you totally NUTS! The covid vaccines being used have all gone through animal studies and Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 trials. Phase 3 trials had ca. 30,000. And we have from around the world follow-up data on adverse events. I think you need to go back on your meds as you are clearly DELUSIONAL.

Hi, the trials were faked. Consider, for example, Pfizer Study Subject C4591001 1162 11621327. This 64 year old man died suddenly a day or two after his Pfizer dose. Pfizer “investigators” never even bothered to look at the corpse but concluded that the death was “unrelated”.

Covid vaccine is medical quackery exemplified.

Florida is now convening a grand jury to investigate the fraud. Florida Supreme Court agreed to convene the grand jury.

Soon, the fraud will be uncovered and all over the newspapers.

“Pfizer “investigators” never even bothered to look at the corpse”

Why do they have to if there is a competent examiner or pathologist? If the death was clearly natural or caused by something else, what do the investigators need to look at?

Do you really like wasting people’s time?

The investigator had knowledge of the patient’s medical history (which Igor does not) and was aware that sudden death is often the initial manifestation of serious atherosclerotic vascular disease.

Antivax obituary ghouls have a grand time jumping to the conclusion that any sudden or unexpected death must be due to Covid-19 vaccination. By the time they’re proven wrong, they’re feasting on the next corpse and never acknowledge their error – as in this case, where the ghouls convinced themselves that vaccination was to blame:

A long time ago, Orac wrote about how alties/ woo-meisters tried to substitute legal manipulations rather than relying upon SB research and data. They pursued rulings in order to evade or contradict reality. Woo-meisters sued SB critics and sources. I wrote about them.

NOW, it seems that ICAN and CHD are trying to sue their way out of mandates, over-investigate PH officials and acquire spurious religious exemptions for anti-vaxxers. ICAN’s Aaron Siri proudly displays his achievements that disregard PH measures as well as common sense. He only wants to get rid of mandates he claims. People are free to vaccinate if they choose to do so. (The Highwire, Substack)
He’s a smart guy but doesn’t understand why mandates are needed.
We can expect more of this I fear.

……and if Pfizer HAD looked at it then Igor would have just claimed some kind of corruption. So, if they don’t look at it then it’s bad, if they do then it’s bad.

Logically, however, it’s not up to Pfizer to determine cause of death and it would be seen as a COI for them to have anything to do with that determination.

Better get your mind out of that rut Igor, your logic has deteriorated dramatically over the last few weeks.

Hi, the trials were faked.

And that is based on another of the many things you don’t understand? Good lord you’re a piece of work, and at the far opposite end of the spectrum from good.

If you speak about clinical trial FDA analysed the deaths, too.
“A total of six (2 vaccine, 4 placebo) of 43,448 enrolled participants (0.01%) died during the reporting period from April 29, 2020 (first participant, first visit) to November 14, 2020 (cutoff date). Both vaccine recipients were >55 years of age; one experienced a cardiac arrest 62 days after vaccination #2 and died 3 days later, and the other participant had pre-existing atherosclerotic disease and baseline obesity and died 3 days after vaccination #1 The placebo recipients died from myocardial infarction (n=1), hemorrhagic stroke (n=1) or unknown causes
(n=2); three of the four deaths occurred in the older group (>55 years of age). All deathsrepresent events that occur in the general population of the age groups where they occurred, at a similar rate.”
I guess you refer #1

@ Igor Chudov

First, read what Jay Kanta wrote. Besides, when one runs a clinical trial with 1000s of volunteers odds are that one or two will die from totally unrelated causes. As I’ve written several times and you are either too stupid or just plain dishonest, on average 250 people have heart attacks every single day, so, if one of them received a vaccine prior to the heart attack, the CDC will look at his/her medical record and compare number of heart attacks prior to beginning of vaccinations to see if there has been an increase. If you really want to display just how stupid you are see if you can find how many people have heart attacks after eating, for instance, a bowl of cheerios.

You continue to write: “Covid vaccine is medical quackery exemplified”; but have NEVER displayed any understanding of immunology and ignore the immense amount of data compiled on the covid vaccines over two years by nations around the world. I really think you need to seek psychiatric help. You are clearly delusional.

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