Advertisement

Collins seen as boon to NIH

It would be difficult to find a more universally lauded and liked researcher than geneticist Francis Collins, who the Obama administration linkurl:nominated;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55818/ yesterday (July 8) to take the reins at the National Institutes of Health. Collins led the US government's Human Genome Project in his time as director of the NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute. Francis CollinsImage: WikipediaAlmost immediately after the announcement of Collins's

By | July 9, 2009

It would be difficult to find a more universally lauded and liked researcher than geneticist Francis Collins, who the Obama administration linkurl:nominated;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55818/ yesterday (July 8) to take the reins at the National Institutes of Health. Collins led the US government's Human Genome Project in his time as director of the NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute.
Francis Collins
Image: Wikipedia
Almost immediately after the announcement of Collins's nomination was made, the praise and well-wishes started pouring in from the usual cast of science advocates. A sampling of the more glowing endorsements: "He is an exceptional scientist, administrator, and communicator," wrote Association of American Medical Colleges president Darrell Kirch in a linkurl:statement.;http://www.aamc.org/newsroom/pressrel/2009/090708a.htm "His skillful direction of [the Human Genome Project] -- one of the greatest technical, scientific, and management accomplishments of our lifetime -- is just one example of the expertise he will bring to the NIH and its 27 institutes and centers." "It is a perfect nomination," enthused John Porter, former Congressman and chair of the science advocacy group Research!America, in a linkurl:statement.;http://www.researchamerica.org/release_09jul08_collins "Francis Collins understands all of science and has a broad vision for advancing human health through research. He is one of the leading scientists of our time and will provide the kind of strong, effective leadership that should always be the hallmark of the National Institutes of Health." Some in the scientific community may be wary of the idea of Collins -- who is an evangelical Christian -- leading the NIH, said linkurl:Robert Cook-Deegan,;http://www.genome.duke.edu/people/faculty/cookdeegan/ director of Duke University's Center for Genome Ethics, who chronicled the start of the Human Genome Project in his 1996 book, linkurl:__Gene Wars: Science, Politics, and the Human Genome__.;http://www.amazon.com/Gene-Wars-Science-Politics-Genome/dp/0393313999 "I suspect his religious beliefs cost him among some science groups," wrote Cook-Deegan in an email to __The Scientist__. But Cook-Deegan, continued that Collins's religious beliefs might actually improve his relations with Congress and the American public. "I believe it is good for NIH and good for the country to heal some of the ideological rifts that have opened up in biomedical research policy," Cook-Deegan wrote. "[Collins] has strong connections among both parties and across the ideological spectrum. His commitment to Christianity builds trust with many policy makers and constituencies who otherwise might distrust a molecular biologist of international stature." This may start Collins off on a good foot as he moves on to the Senate for confirmation hearings that are likely to approve his appointment. Let's just hope he's paid all his taxes!
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Collins tapped to lead NIH;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55818/
[8th July 2009]*linkurl:Report: Collins to lead NIH;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55733/
[26th May 2009]*linkurl:Francis Collins leaves NHGRI;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54701/
[28th May 2008]
Advertisement

Comments

July 9, 2009

\n\n\nDr. Collins,\n\nCongratulations for your nomination. I hope that you’re confirmed and soon at work with the entire scientific community.\n\nI heard that you’re a good musician. You might like this song from a Concert aired by PBS in 2007-2008. Here is an excerpt of Andrea Bocelli’s song:\n\n\n\nDare To Live\n\n \n\nTry looking at tomorrow not yesterday\n\nAnd all the things you left behind\n\nAll those tender words you did not say\n\nThe gentle touch you couldn't find\n\n \n\nIn these days of nameless faces\n\nThere is no one truth but only pieces\n\nMy life is all I have to give\n\n \n\nDare to live until the very last\n\nDare to live, forget about the past\n\nDare to live giving something of yourself to others\n\nEven when it seems there's nothing more left to give.\n
Avatar of: ROBERT KILLOREN

ROBERT KILLOREN

Posts: 5

July 9, 2009

After hearing rumors (and reading all the comments here pro and con) for months and months, the nomination is now official. Good for Collins and good for NIH. Let's all roll up sleeves and get busy.
Avatar of: Jag KHALSA

Jag KHALSA

Posts: 3

July 9, 2009

I am surprised that he not been nominated for the most coveted prize-The Nobel Prize.\n
Avatar of: BARRY WILLIAMS

BARRY WILLIAMS

Posts: 2

July 9, 2009

Anyone who has read Dr. Collins' book, 'The Language of God,' or has heard him speak on the subject of science and faith, knows that he was a physician and scientist before he became a Christian. He makes an thoughtful and articulate case for accepting both science and religion without preaching or talking down to his audience and without rejecting the most important scientific theories of the last two centuries. Anyone who believes he will let his faith prejudice his research or his ability to lead the NIH effectively should not prejudge him merely because he decided that faith also has truths to offer.
Avatar of: Renea Gooch

Renea Gooch

Posts: 1

July 9, 2009

I had the priviledge to meet Dr. Collins some months back, and I have to say I can think of no better man than him to lead the NIH toward the future. Such a genuine and brilliant individual who seeks the truth with such honesty and integrity. I heartily second all the comments above.\n\nAnd yes to the previous post. He's a fanatastic musician playing some mean classic rock - boy he sure knows how to get the crowd buzzing, jamming and singing along. Rock on Dr. Collins, rock on!
Avatar of: Jose Pardinas

Jose Pardinas

Posts: 2

July 9, 2009

Interesting that a member of the great American cult committed to the eradication of Evolutionary Theory should end up head of the NIH. \n\nThis is either a very great country or an extremely messed up one. All the political, military and economic evidence favors the latter.\n\nEvangelicals will be the death of Science in the good ol' US of A. However, I congratulate them on their astute move: like Sansom, they can most effectively demolish the building from inside.

July 10, 2009

\n\nIf the Lord works in mysterious ways??..Who is the Lord? \n\n\n\nIf the Lord works in mysterious ways, IT IS UP TO US TO MAKE SURE that SHE or HE DOESN?T !!!!\n\nJose,\n\nI don?t know if you are a scientist or have been trained as such.\n\nI feel somehow disconcerted when scientists 1) forget to base their conclusions on rigorous examination of facts (proven and unproven) and, 2) make predictions based on untestable accounts. I get excited, though, when people dare to admit and explore the possibility of alternative explanations for rational observations, as well as for kind of ?irrational feelings?. \n\nI was unaware of the controversy on Dr Collins?s beliefs and statements (and the question of whether he is fit to lead NIH) until The Scientist published in 2009 the potential Obama?s nomination. I must confess that I haven?t read his book. It is not readily available where I presently live and I am busy. \n\nWould you, please, tell me where is the indication, suggestion or proof that Dr Collins is committed to ERADICATE THE EVOLUTIONARY THEORY?. \n\nJose, this is a huge statement and I feel curious to explore it.\n\nLet me tell you that while I was at The Scripps, I had the privilege to attend a lecture at the School of Pharmacy in la Jolla by Sean Carroll on ?Endless forms most beautiful? and I was stunned. I was so distracted, after it, that driving back to Scripps I got stopped by the police because I was not wearing the belt. I bought his book and two additional ones: ?The making of the fittest, DNA and the ultimate forensic record of evolution?, and \n?From DNA to diversity?. José, I am not an evolutionary biologist but I haven?t found, so far, any indication to assert that Dr Collins?s work and records are against the evidence on evolution or that he has the potential to commit himself to eradicate the evolutionary theory. I don?t see it and I beg you to show it to me.\n\nI am a believer (catholic) whom, by education and choice, is driven to question virtually everything and everybody.\n\n I, myself, struggle to explain what is obviously inexplicable and I agree that religion and faith are ambivalent and can be and have been historically used to\n\na) justify unjustifiable ends, \nb) manipulate people and consciences\nc) for economic and political gains. \n\nBut you would agree with me that so is ATHEISM, wouldn?t you ?.\n\nSo, it the Lord works in mysterious ways, let?s the Lord, whomever the Lord is, not to get away with it !!!! IT IS UP TO US TO FIGHT his or her irrationally unsound, oppressive, undignifying proven actions whenever they happen.\n\nLet?s be sensitive and respect ? rational and irrational feelings?. Because for some people, those might be alternative explanations to accept the limitations of our brain and the scientific method to explain everything and, most importantly, to come to terms with the contradictory beauty and finitude of life.\n\nLet?s work on educating ourselves and people to choosing leaders who do not erect themselves on ?Lords acting in mysterious ways?. \n\nThank you \n\n\nFOR THE RECORDS: I like Bill Maher. I enjoy his shows. I was amused watching his documentary: ?Religulous?. I was disappointed, though, when he interviewed Dr Collins, asked very important questions but did not give him the time to answer them, some of them at all. He should have planned his timing better. It was not a useful interview.\n\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 85

July 11, 2009

Am I the only one who thinks Collins is wrong for this job? One of the biggest problems with the NIH is its tendency to support "safe," predictable "under the lamppost" science and shy away from supporting the kind of truly breakthrough stuff that can really advance fields. This fact has been under public discussion lately, and has been voiced even by people within NIH's upper adminisration.\n\nCollins is the embodiment of doing "under the lamppost" research. Remember his clashes with Craig Venter ? Venter had some out-of-the-box ideas about how to do the genome sequencing faster and cheaper and more accurately than the "tried and true" methodology championed by Collins. Collins tried to squash Venter's ideas, but Venter had persistence (much more persistence than most "out of the box" creative scientists) and guess what? Venter's novel approach was vindicated! Venter was right, Collins was wrong. Without Venter's important contributions, we might still be sequencing the human genome, and might almost have it finished by now.\n\nCollins doesn't deserve any Nobel Prize (although Venter does).\n\nI fear that Collins will bring his entrenched "inside the box" and "under the lamppost" attitudes about science to Building One at NIH. This is not good. \n\nWe need an NIH Director who can provide the kind of leadership in terms of novel thinking that this country needs in order to regain (yes, regain) the world scientific leadership that we have gradually lost due to our collective scientific myopia and reluctance to support (or even propose) truly ground-breaking innovative ideas. Unfortunately, Collins has demonstrated that he is NOT that person.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 8

July 11, 2009

Lab heads who are real scientists are not hood-winked by graduate students. Remember the case of Amitav Hajra? See: http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/not97-151.html\n\nCollins should not be NIH Director.

July 11, 2009

\n\nThank you for the evidence. \n\nValidation of scientific identity ??real scientists?- cannot be based solely on susceptibility to be hood-winked. \n\nI still question ?the mistery? of not wanting to be identified. Why?. \n

July 12, 2009

\n\n\nThere appears to be evidence to question the statement ? it would be difficult to find a MORE UNIVERSALLY and LIKED researcher than geneticist Francis Collins??. \n\nI do not expect anyone, leader or follower, to be universally accepted or universally liked. We live in a democracy, at least I hope and I wish we would. There is plenty of ideals, ideas, business models, schools of thought etc. \n\nIn my view, the question arises as to what are the ideas, business models?etc that better respond to societal needs at any time in point. And at any time in point, all of those should be given the opportunity to prove their fitness and validity. This is a view ?mine- on how a democracy should work. \n\nI think, it is up to us now to reason freely and openly on what and whom would more effectively lead in bettering science and the health of the nation as head of NIH.\n\nFor better or worse, perfection does not exist and idols have limitations too. I could be wrong.\n\n

July 13, 2009

I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Collins some years ago when he was a consultant to Genelabs Technologies, the company I was then with. This was during the period when he was at the University of Michigan, leading the search to find the genetic underpinnings of Huntington disease. I found him to be as intellectually rigorous and honest as any scientist I have ever met, including several Nobel laureates.\n\nAlthough we have not been in touch since then and I admit I have not read his book, it baffles me how anyone could think he would use his new position to undermine the teaching of evolution or otherwise drive our society away from an objective understanding of the voluminous data that has become available since the original insights of Darwin, Wallace and others. This is a man who has devoted his scientific career to using the tools of molecular genetics to investigate the results of evolution in our own genomes.\n\nRecognizing that evolution driven by random mutation and natural selection can have unfortunate byproducts such as genetic diseases is a far cry from denying evolution itself. I am one of those who welcomes the opportunity inherent in having this office occupied by a deeply religious person who believes in the scientific truth of evolution and has devoted much of his energy to explaining to others how these two positions can be reconciled. The dichotomy between scientific knowledge and religious faith is real; the idea that they are somehow incompatible is a fallacy grounded in dogma and misunderstanding.

Follow The Scientist

icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube
Advertisement

Stay Connected with The Scientist

  • icon-facebook The Scientist Magazine
  • icon-facebook The Scientist Careers
  • icon-facebook Neuroscience Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Genetic Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Cell Culture Techniques
  • icon-facebook Microbiology and Immunology
  • icon-facebook Cancer Research and Technology
  • icon-facebook Stem Cell and Regenerative Science
Advertisement
Advertisement