NIH quietly shelves gun research program

Science | AAAS | 9/13/2017 | Staff
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Parents leave a staging area after being reunited with their children following a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman murdered 20 children and six educators on Dec. 14, 2012.

Four years after then-President Barack Obama responded to the shooting deaths of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, by ordering U.S. health agencies to sponsor gun research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has let lapse a funding program probing firearm violence and how to prevent it, Science has learned. Renewal of the program, which has funded 22 projects for $18 million over the past 3 years, "is still under consideration" a NIH spokesperson said on 6 September, although the agency stopped accepting proposals in January and the last new awards are now being launched.

NIH - Science - Scientists - Research - Program

NIH told Science that scientists may still apply to do firearm research outside the program. Gun researchers say that's not enough, noting that thematic funding programs signal NIH priorities to scientists. They can also help tilt grant decisions toward those in the highlighted area over others that are equally good, but outside it. "It's really critically important to renew that program if we want more firearms research," says Rina Das Eiden, a developmental psychologist at the State University of New York in Buffalo.

Das Eiden and several collaborators won an award to study whether violence exposure and substance use raise the odds of gun violence in high-risk adolescents. "It would have been much harder for us to get funding for this research without that specific program announcement on firearm violence," she says.

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