Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Nature's Exit Interview of NIH's Dr. Francis Collins

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, History of Science

Ed Hessler

Francis Collins in stepping down from leading the National Institutes of Health (NIH) after 12 years. Several of his achievements have been of the big and bold variety, e.g., leading the Human Genome Project, and the All of Us Project "which aims to study health data from one million people." Collins served three presidents and will remain at NIH as a researcher. The British science journal Nature spoke with him about his NIH careers.

In it he is asked about the achievement he most cherishes, projects in which he was disappointed, an ARPA-H initiative to accelerate science and how he would gauge its success in two years time, his ability to gain bipartisan support for the NIH, what is required of the next NIH director to succeed at this job, fetal-tissue research, the CRISPR-edited embryos, concerns about espionage, "gain of function research (some in Congress harp on this during testimony, especially with Dr. Fauci, claiming that he and others have been engaged in enhancing pandemic potential), the growing politization of science, the role of NIH in pushing back on misinformation against science. 

There are many quotes worth reproducing but two, both related, struck me. "We’re in a really bad place. If science happens to produce a result that a political perspective doesn’t like, then science has to be attacked." 

"Somewhere along the way, our political hyperpolarization began having a lot of really dangerous consequences, where in many instances we seem to have lost a sense of how to tell the difference between a fact and an opinion — or some Facebook post that’s, frankly, a lie. That’s truly dangerous. That’s another epidemic that is not going to go away even if we triumph over COVID-19. We need to figure out what happened here, and how to bring ourselves back to a place where our nation has a more stable future."

The Nature-Collins interview may be read here--please do. It contains links to relevant links. It is an important interview and as you read it keep in mind that Dr. Collins served three U. S. preisidents.. 

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