Tuesday, January 26, 2010

NYT article worth a read

whoa.  i just wrote an application letter for a science and technology policy fellowship not 10 days ago, trying to articulate my stance on research, politics, and their interaction.  i focused for the most part on the idea that certain types of drug research -- particularly those that don't paint a "drugs are bad" picture -- can get buried by science policy, creating a public opinion that is skewed, even if it is based on all the latest research.  no scientist is dying to propose research that takes a million hurdles to get funded/approved, won't get published in top journals if completed, can't get press coverage, and gets them ostracized and ridiculed.  so, the research winds up stagnant, poorly explored, and unheard-of, and the only "scientific facts" the public knows are those that corroborate the more popular story.  (the most obvious example is the medical marijuana movement, but there are also some really interesting studies on LSD, psilocybin, and ecstasy for treatment of psychiatric conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and distress in terminal cancer patients, that few people have heard of because they're naughty schedule 1 drugs - "no currently accepted medical use in treatment" - and who wants to be caught supporting that.)  to which i say, drugs of abuse may never be a psychiatric panacea, but can't we at least find out?  who really loses, though, are the patients that might have benefited from such research -- how can we offer them as extensive a repertoire of "evidence-based treatment options" as possible when only some of the options are cleared for evidence-collection??

in any event, what makes this a "whoa" is that as i was writing the application letter, i kept asking myself, is this argument even true?  am i setting up a straw man to knock down, when in fact science policy is much more open-minded and equitable than i give it credit for?  and then today, i came across this new york times article, laying my self-doubt to rest.

Researchers Find Study of Medical Marijuana Discouraged

it's worth a read.  it lays out and illustrates the argument nicely.

and judging from NIDA-lady's comment, not only is inequity in science policy alive and well, it's also no secret.  yeow.

but i, for one, think it's a shame that one side of an argument (any argument) should get all the publicity, while the other gets passive-aggressively silenced..... and that the receiving audience isn't the wiser for it.

EDIT 1/27/10: in fairness, i should mention that this morning i did come across this article from  the newest issue of the journal drug and alcohol dependence: Is ecstasy a drug of dependence?  (cliff's notes: the answer is "maybe, maybe not" rather than "well duh."  baby steps.)

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