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Ad it up: Super Bowl commercials vs. health research

Regardless of whether or not you watched the Super Bowl yesterday, you've probably at least heard of some of the ads. Some were panned, some were ignored and some inspired laughs or sappy smiles (Google, anyone?). But they were all expensive.

Research!America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making medical and health research a higher national priority, put it into perspective on Twitter this morning by pointing out that the price tag for a Super Bowl commercial yesterday averaged $2.5 million. That's enough to fund about six RO1 grants from the National Institutes of Health.

A multiyear RO1 grant is the major funding source for many investigators at Stanford and around the country. Although President Obama recently proposed a modest increase in the NIH's 2011 budget, the institute is expected to fund nearly 200 fewer RO1 grants in 2011 than in 2010 due to disease- and program-specific allocation of funds.

So, let's see. How many ads are we talking here? Maybe 20? 30? So, 30 times six RO1 grants...You do the math. Clearly it's naive to suggest that we forgo advertising in favor of research. But I think it's an interesting thing to ponder.

For more comparisons pitting research against popular culture, visit Research!America's Research Takes Cents Web page.

To learn more about federal funding and changing research priorities, read my article "In the Crosshairs" in Stanford Medicine magazine. Or you could just sit around and eat Doritos while watching your Flo TV and planning how to sneak some Dove Men+Care into your shopping cart during your next outing. Whatever.

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