In President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget proposal, entitled A New Era of Responsibility: Renewing America’s Promise, an estimated $6 billion will be given to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund cancer research. President Obama, upon taking office, stated that he wanted to double the amount of cancer research being done during his time in office. As admirable as this undertaking may sound, how exactly will the NIH spend these funds?

In the President’s budget proposal, it states:

"The Budget includes over $6 billion within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support cancer research. This funding is central to the President’s sustained, multi-year plan to double cancer research. These resources will be committed strategically to have the greatest impact on developing innovative diagnostics, treatments, and cures for cancer. This initiative will build upon the unprecedented $10 billion provided in the Recovery Act, which will support new NIH research in 2009 and 2010."

Yet, some of the projects that were done using the primary $10 billion from the “stimulus package” were thoroughly unnecessary and virtually useless. One particularly strange project that is currently taking place involves researching how Chinese dragon boating helps cancer patients live better lives. The researchers hypothesize that Chinese dragon boating is more beneficial to cancer patients than walking. How exactly is this relevant to finding a cure for cancer, you may ask? Quite frankly, it’s not.

Unfortunately, inutile projects (like the dragon boating one) have occurred on many occasions and are being paid for with our tax dollars. Other such projects include researching how canoes can help in the preservation of a cultural identity, the relationship between HIV and sex in St. Petersburg, Russia, and why women drive so poorly. Why, exactly, the NIH feels that these projects are necessary to the health and well-being of the country is unclear.

In order to ensure that our tax dollars are being used wisely, governmental oversight is greatly needed for the NIH’s research projects. Representatives Greg Walden (R-Ore.-2) and Joe Barton (R-Texas-6) recently wrote a letter to NIH Director Francis Collins questioning the amount of money and lack of oversight for the NIH’s projects. Walden recently stated about these projects: “It’s beyond embarrassing in my book. I don’t think there’s enough oversight being done there…We’re all for medical research … but come on.”

This fiasco makes one think that A New Era of Irresponsibility is a more fitting title for this year’s budget.

Picture credit; Gregor Rohrig