Monday, March 13, 2006

Spending $143 million, collecting 25 years'-worth data...for the fun of it?

The Scientist reports that the data and samples collected over a 25-year, $143-million dollar study that followed 1,043 veterans are in jeapordy.
When the Air Force Health Study closes this fall, some scientists fear an invaluable trove of scientific information could be lost. The money runs out on September 30, and there is currently no cash set aside to preserve the 87,000 biological specimens and reams of data collected since the study opened in 1982.
Some argue that the study may shed light on more questions than it originally set out to answer. "The study has been able to follow thousands of men as they grow older," said Michael Stoto, chairman of the Ranch Hand Advisory Committee, which offers scientific advice on the study and reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. "There probably are many kinds of analyses that people can do that go far beyond the original questions that were behind the reason for doing the study," added Stoto, also an adjunct professor of biostatistics at Harvard School of Public Health.
The value of the study has long been controversial. "The study is deeply flawed to say the least," said Jeanne Mager Stellman, a professor of public health at Columbia University. For instance, dioxin exposures likely don't represent what soldiers on the ground experienced, she said. The study also includes methodological flaws, including the addition of new people to both control and study groups during the course of the project, she noted. Still, any efforts to make sense of the massive quantities of data collected would be worthwhile, if only because it means $143 million won't be wasted, Stellman noted.
Someone's spending priorities are way out of whack.
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