Hell To The No! Traditional Values Coalition’s Bad Math

There are bizarre research in the scientific world but sometimes it’s all about answering the question “where the money come from”. If you’d like to start your own work make sure you have another source of income and read more about the Option robot before you start using such a tool.

First, we talked about the NIH kerfuffle instigator (Traditional Values Coalition, TVC) and said kerfuffle’s timeline.  Next, we learned more about TVC’s campaign to close down “NIH: After Dark”.  Now, it’s time to do some math.

Here’s what the TVC says the NIH funded.

  • At least $9.4 million for a 10-year study that included a survey of gay men to determine average penis sizes, “…to better understand the real individual-level consequences of living in a penis-centered society.”
  • $154,500 spent asking individuals to mail in their toenails in an effort to research how much toenail nicotine is present versus saliva swabbing, at a cost of $154.50 per batch of toenails.
  • $163,500 spent seeking to explain the “drug-using and sexual behaviors among men who have sex with men (MSM) during a circuit party.”
  • $1.2 million spent since 2003 trying to find out if a mother rat, if given cocaine, will abandon her babies.

Let’s do the math on the project TVC is pimping the most to show NIH waste – the penis size research.

As discussed in the JAYFK post Oh No They Didn’t: TVC vs. NIH, the actual research that involved penis size used no where near $9.4 million dollars.  Here’s an excerpt from the Acknowledgments section of the paper that resulted from said research:

Christian Grov was supported in part as a postdoctoral fellow in the Behavioral Sciences training in Drug Abuse Research program sponsored by Public Health Solutions and the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. (NDRI) with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (T32 DA07233).

The Behavorial Sciences Training In Drug Abuse Research (BST) program is funded by the NIH.  No, the NIH isn’t paying it’s postdoctoral fellows enough to make them millionaires.  Christian Grov wasn’t popping Cristal in a McMansion as a postdoc.  Thanks to @GertyZ, we have a good idea of how much Grov’s postdoc stipend was at the time he worked on this study. Behold, the 2007 postdoctoral stipend levels!

Image is a screen capture from http://1.usa.gov/q77NLA

Even with several years of experience, Grov wasn’t making enough money to even put a dent in TVC’s $9.4 million estimate.  Where is TVC getting $9.4 million?  Believe it or not, this Daily Caller fluff piece on TVC’s NIH “investigation” helps us do the sums.

The Daily Caller provided a link to the NIH Project Information website for the BST program.  This website includes a funding history listing each dollar awarded.  Let’s see if we can come up with TVC’s “$9.4 million for a 10-year study”.  Given that TVC released its “findings” on NIH funding this week, we’ll look at the 2001-2011 funding data.

Image is a screen capture of BST’s NIH Project Information page

I would have rounded up to $9.5 million, but I digress…

Here’s what I think the TVC did.  First, they searched for NIH research involving anything in direct violation to their “traditional values”.  I may be going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing men who have sex with men fits the bill.  TVC then got their hands on the Archives of Sexual Behavior article The Association between Penis Size and Sexual Health among Men Who Have Sex with Men.  Next, TVC saw in the paper’s Acknowledgments some funding was received through project number T32 DA07233.  TVC then searches NIH projects for “T32 DA07233” and get’s the BST NIH Project Information website as search result.   TVC liked the sound of a decade of NIH “wasteful” spending and simply added up 10 years worth of grants to get their $9.4 million.

This simple addition also adds up to total bullshit.

In ten years, the BST program received $9,470,642.  A teeny-tiny slice of the money went to research involving penis size.  By the way, this research wasn’t really about penis size.  See this excellent Salon article for more on what the researchers were really studying (hint: not penis size).

BST has a long history of NIH funding and they’ve put that money to good use.

The mission of the BST program is to prepare behavioral scientists, especially from minority backgrounds, for careers in drug abuse research and allied fields. This is accomplished by (1) recruiting and appointing promising scientists, half from minority backgrounds, for traineeships; (2) providing advanced training in substantive topics and theory, research methods and 0ractices, and the ethical conduct of research; and (3) mentoring and advising trainees. Trainees regularly participate in supervised research–ample opportunities exist on well over 100 Federal grants/contracts of BST core faculty–and they conduct their own independent research. The BST program’s success is evident in the significant contributions of its 112 graduates (including 44 predoctoral trainees who have received their doctorates) and 16 current fellows. Many of the former trainees have distinguished themselves through their research and publications–the number of publications by current and former BST trainees is estimated at over 750. BST trainees have written and received as PIs 17 NIH funded grants, been Co-investigators on 27 more NIH projects, and received over 75 grants from non-NIH funding sources. [Excerpt from BST’s Project Information website]

Unlike the TVC, none of what the BST uses NIH funding for strikes me as a “bizarre and ridiculous — and in some cases, truly horrific..”.   Guess I just don’t have the same traditional values.



Editorial Materials & MethodsmCold hard facts and piping hot coffee were used extensively in the development of this post.