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Meddling in peer review?

As US House votes to block mental health grants, some worry about precedent

Ted Agres(tedagres@lycos.com)

Scientists, officials, and professional research societies are troubled by what they said might be a new trend in research grant appropriations by the US Congress: a vote to block continued funding of two peer-reviewed grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Members of the US House of Representatives last week (Sept. 9) approved an amendment to the NIH fiscal year 2005 budget (HR 5006) that would prohibit NIMH from further funding grants "studying the decorations of dorm rooms and college students' Web pages" and "studying what makes for a meaningful day," as Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.) characterized the grants last week.

The amendment is largely symbolic because the two grants already have been obligated. But advocates worried about the possible precedent. "It alarms us," said Steve Breckler, executive director for science at the American Psychological Association. "To have a member of Congress...

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