Two House committees have kicked off an investigation into PR spending at the National Cancer Institute after an editorial in the respected journal Nature questioned spending in the NCI's office of communications.

letterIn a letter to National Institutes of Health Director Fred Collins (PDF), members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Appropriations Committee said they will examine spending by the offices of communications or PR at the NIH's 27 Institutes and Centers to "help us understand" the amount of funds spent on PR.

The Nature editorial noted the NCI spent about $45M in fiscal year 2012 on its office of communications and education, or OCE, which is double what the FDA spent on PR, including its numerous drug and food safety announcements.

The congressmen want a list of PR and communications contracts, annual PR office budgets and expenditures from 2010 through projected 2013 budgets. "The OCE spending concern comes at a time of cuts to research from budgetary sequestration and when the NCI success rate for grant applications is at an all-time low of 14 percent," said the letter, signed by six congressmen.

The committees want a reply from Collins by April 25.

The congressmen include Fred Upton (R-MI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Joe Barton (R-TX), Joe Pitts (R-PA), Michael Burgess (R-TX),  Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Rodney Alexander (R-LA).