NIH Director, Time to Bring Science to the People American Ninja Warrior Style
The best problems in science and medicine are solved over a delicious cocktail. Cocktails release dopamine. Alcohol an awesome preconditioning agent against subsequent stress and is a lot better than cage-fighting for your mental well being.
Last night, Fighty Squirrel happily hung out with an esteemed science chipmunk relaxing over a bit of nectarian. We had taken note of the social media dust up around if you have to know animal behavior to use a model species. The issue revolves around our need to bring an increasing number of tools to land impactful papers and needed grants. The tools and techniques available now are staggeringly powerful, specific and expensive. Yes. Expensive. Which is vexing to mom-and-pop shop/1 Ro1 funded labs/teams who already have to bring mental Olympics in the form of mind warpingly clever biological and technical insight to land both pubs and money. And trust a squirrel on this, it’s hard as a Brazil nut shell to do this normally, much less when you are writing grants non-stop.
Rather than banging our little rodent brains against a wall and railing against the machine, the squirrel and chipmunk refined a suggestion for funding for funding to our beleaguered leader @NIHDirector, Francis Collins.
It’s the Squirrel. The chipmunk is out cold, but I’m here for you and damn, Daniel, you’re trying. I love that. Between you, me, the passed out chipmunk and an empty bottle of nectar, we need to move outside the funding box. Viewing Congress as the only source of funding for your awesome pool of exasperated scientist spawn is beneath you. You’re fed up too. I see that. So, let’s rethink this.
We do a massive disservice to the genius that is Murica by not upping our game to meet the public where they are at using every tool we have to get their interest sparked in education and the power that is science. So grab a cocktail and let’s do this.
What does America love? TV? A good fight? A nice reality show? Some crazy arse stunts? So here it is. A game show of Science Olympics. Murica will call in and pay $1 to vote for their favorite science badarse who can demonstrate some ninja like skillz on a live prime time reality show. Think American Gladiator but with flies. There’s already precedent we are ready for a no-assist public platform for scientists and clinicians to dazzle folks with their brain power. See Ted Talks, the Fighty Squirrel’s favorite social media platform at CrowdMed and TVs insanely rerun popular show House.
Think this but with scientists in PPE.
If you know an awesome scientist, you want to fund to study songbird learning to understand basal ganglia’s role in memory and attention, but they keep getting dinged by tight pay lines, suggest they take a turn on American Science Ninjas. In this new NIH Reality Show, you’ll have five minutes to make a juvenile zebra finch imprint on you and parrot your song. On live TV. You pass? Now you’re in a room with 30 angry geese, and you have to exert social dominance and make them hop into a small pen without touching them. If you beat your colleagues in this betting game, you can have 250K for five years. We’ll sell ads to Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and the beer companies because science is fueled by coffee and beer. They can pay for celebrity scientist endorsements (“I had a couple of Budweisers and suddenly thought of how prions act as signaling molecules. You too, could be a Nobel Laureate on Bud”). Contestants, because it is Murica, we are paying your salary to do a victory lap around Murica i with your angry geese talking up your real science in schools and at Elk’s Clubs. We hope you like Shoney’s.
This is going to be tough, Frank. Try this one next time you’re getting an earful on Twitter “Hey if your study section didn’t fund your work on a Drosophila model neurodegenerative diseases, no worries. You’ll get a chance to compete against other fly researchers in an ‘innovator series’. You will go head to head on live TV in a box with a couple drinking wine. You’ll need to get the most fruit flies to leave a couple drinking a bottle of wine alone for the longest. Use your science woo and Jedi mind tricks. Pass that and you get to coat a grad student in whatever yummy sucrose solution you choose and have them run and have as many bugs stick to them as possible.”
To recap, a squirrel and a chipmunk just solved NIH’s funding woes, sparked public education in the sciences and made inane reality TV a helluva lot smarter.
Where do we send our bar bill, Francis?
Your bestest friend ever,
The Fighty Squirrel