A group of senators has registered concerns about the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) plan to abolish its National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) to make way for a new translational science center. In a 14 February letter to NIH Director Francis Collins, 16 senators, including three Republicans, say they are concerned about "the timing of the reorganization process and the impact" on NCRR's Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) program, which supports research in states with less NIH funding.
The letter points out how quickly the reorganization is moving since an advisory board suggested the new institute in early December. The "pace" at which decisions are being made "is concerning," the senators write. They're also worried that putting several pieces of NCRR in an "interim unit" in the NIH director's office "could have negative implications for many of the programs."
The signers include two lawmakers who co-authored a similar letter to NIH 2 weeks ago; one is Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), the chair of the Senate panel that approves NIH's budget. NIH pushes ahead with the reorganization plan in the 2012 budget request released by the president earlier this week. But look for a showdown with opponents next Wednesday at another advisory board meeting.
UPDATE, 18 February: In a response sent 16 February to the senators, NIH Director Francis Collins says the $229 million IDeA program will move to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). "There is much similarity in the goals of IDeA and the mission of NIGMS," Collins writes.
NIGMS Director Jeremy Berg and the institute's council have worried about the management challenges of adding NCRR's large infrastructure programs to the $2 billion basic research institute.