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NIH Record  
Vol. LXIV, No. 3
  February 3, 2012
Reports Offer Details on NIH’s FY 2012 Budget
Survey on Teen Drug Use Shows Pot Up, Cigarettes, Alcohol Down
Balbus Represents HHS at Climate Change Summit
OBSSR Holds AIDS Commemorative Symposium
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‘Welcome to a Grand Adventure’
NCATS Holds First All-Staff Meeting, Others Expected

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins and NCATS acting deputy director Dr. Kathy Hudson
NIH director Dr. Francis Collins and NCATS acting deputy director Dr. Kathy Hudson
It was with a sense of excitement and relief that NIH director Dr. Francis Collins and the 7-person leadership team of the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences assembled Jan. 4 in Masur Auditorium for the new entity’s first all-staff meeting.

Many employees of the former National Center for Research Resources, which has been subsumed by NCATS, arrived by bus from off-campus sites for the meeting.

“This is one of the most exciting things that’s happened at NIH in a very long time, and you are at the heart of that,” said Dr. Thomas Insel, acting director of NCATS and director of NIMH. Acknowledging a period of disruption, uncertainty and “hardship for all of us” that preceded establishment of NCATS, he said the meeting was the first of several gatherings to assure “that we’re all working on the same team.

‘Nudges’ Help People Choose Rightly, Says Thaler

Dr. Richard Thaler
Dr. Richard Thaler
So there are two kinds of beings in the world: humans, with their messy, faltering, blinkered and occasionally brilliant existences, and “econs,” imaginary creatures invented by economists who are unfailingly rational, undistractable, self-interested— but also “unboundedly unscrupulous; they try to exploit humans.”

The differences between these two species define the field of behavioral economics, according to one of its founding adherents, Dr. Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago, who visited NIH as a guest of the National Institute on Aging recently.

Whereas humans suffer from bounded rationality, bounded willpower and are easily distracted, econs “never overeat, never have hangovers and they save for retirement,” Thaler observed.