As you may or may not know, is being used by Obama’s team to solicit policy ideas. Americans submit ideas, along with supporting rationale, and people “vote up” or vote down” the proposals. “Up” votes increase the score of the proposals, and “down” votes decrease the score. It is described thusly on the website:

Share your ideas on any issue facing the new administration, then rate or comment on other ideas. The best rated ideas will rise to the top — and be gathered into a Citizen’s Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama after he is sworn in.

A couple of days ago, P.Z. Myers let me know about an excellent proposal over at the Citizen’s Briefing Book: Defund the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine:

Here’s a way to increase the available funding to NIH without increasing the NIH budget: halt funding to NCCAM, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This Center was created not by scientists, who never thought it was a good idea, but by Congress, and specifically by just two Congressmen in the 1990’s who believed in particular “alternative” (but scientifically dubious) treatments. Defunding NCCAM would save at least $225 million, possibly more.

Defunding NCCAM would also provide a direct societal benefit. Practitioners of so-called “alternative” medicines constantly refer to NIH’s support as a way of validating their practices and beliefs, most of which are not supported by evidence. The fact is that after >10 years, NCCAM has not yet found a single piece of positive evidence for any of these methods, which include acupuncture, “qi”, homoepathy, magnet therapy, and other treatments.

Any legitimate, promising medical treatment can be funded by one of the existing NIH Institutes. There’s no need for a separate center for “alternative” therapies – but what has happened is that NCCAM has become a last refuge for poorly designed, unscientific studies that couldn’t get funded through the normal peer-reviewed process.

He even cited our co-blogger’s (in)famous article Why the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Should Be Defunded. Maybe he should take a gander at my post The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): Your tax dollars hard at work, as well.

It is correct that the federal government spends close to a quarter of a billion dollars a year on on unscientific and dubious studies of therapies mostly based on prescientific understanding (i.e., the vast majority of CAM or “integrative medicine” research other than the study of natural products, which NCCAM has managed to ghettoize with the association to all the woo also being studied under the “CAM” rubric) What’s incorrect about the proposal is where all that money comes from. In actuality, NCCAM’s budget will be around $121 million a year in FY 2009, which is about what it has been for the last three or four years. The other money going to fund woo comes from from an office in the National Cancer Institute known as the Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, whose budget is also around $121 million a year. Together, that’s nearly a quarter of a billion scarce taxpayer dollars spent on woo. Both NCCAM and OCCAM would have to be defunded to realize that savings, to be shifted to more useful programs. Also, remember that the entire NIH budget is currently just under $30 billion. Removing OCCAM and NCCAM would thus only be less than 1% of the NIH budget.

But getting rid of NCCAM at least and probably OCCAM would at least be a start in shoring up the NIH, which has suffered grievously during the last four years. It may not do any good to vote on this; we may be completely outnumbered by those who want the government to promote pseudoscience (witness this idea for “health freedom” and “freedom from chemtrails” if you don’t believe me, particularly how it’s much higher scored than the “defund NCCAM” idea), but it’s still worth a try to emphasize to the new administration that there is support for eliminating a useless entity whose functions could be better done folded back into the NIH.

The power of SBM may be small compared to the power of the Pharynguloid hordes, but, please, head on over to, register, and vote up this proposal. The more votes, the higher it goes on the priority list. You know the Deepak Chopra and his minions will be trying to vote it down.



Posted by David Gorski