NIH Joins Smokey the Bear on Biden's List of Favorites

Labs and parks. Vice President Joe Biden placed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in an exalted but quirky category of national "assets" today as he unveiled a report from the Obama Administration on how the $787 billion federal stimulus package has fostered innovation.

Biden was already feeling very kindly toward science. Introduced by Energy Secretary and Nobelist Steven Chu, Biden praised Chu as someone who has taught him more about innovation than anyone else in the Obama Administration. The vice president described how the stimulus package has led the country to the brink of major advances in reducing the cost of solar power, batteries for electric vehicles, and greater capacity for generating renewable energy.

Then, ad-libbing, he upped the ante.

Deviating from prepared remarks on the report's description of "groundbreaking medical research" that NIH has funded with its $10 billion in stimulus money, Biden declared, "I think that the three greatest assets that America has are our laboratories from which you [Chu] came, doc; NIH; and our national parks system. They are the three pieces of our heritage that we leave for future generations that cannot be duplicated."

Not surprisingly, the vice president's words went over well with the federal agency officials, outside scientists, and business leaders assembled in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House.