The petition comes as the NIH, like other federal agencies, is struggling to prevent deep budget cuts made by lawmakers concerned about the deficit. But the NIH has support from both parties, which defend its investments in primary research that can lead to commercially viable products down the line.
Still, behavioral research is by its very nature more open to criticism. The Traditional Values Coalition has a long history of fighting what it calls the homosexual "agenda," and its criticism of the NIH follows the same vein.
Among the research it finds "questionable," the group mentions:
• 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;" and
• $1.2 million spent since 2003 trying to find out whether a mother rat, if given cocaine, will abandon her babies.
The coalition says it plans to release more information on the NIH's "practices" in the coming weeks.