DHHS, NIH News  
Center for Scientific Review (CSR)

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Don Luckett

"The Rocket Boys of NIH"— New Children’s Book Released

Fifty-two years ago, members of a review committee at the National Institutes of Health dug into their wallets and purses to give a "grant" to a 9-year-old boy named Terence Boylan of Snyder, N.Y. His energetic request for $10 to build a rocket ship with his 14-year old friend Bruce Cook moved distinguished members of this NIH committee to invest in the future.

Today, any child or adult can send a request to the NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) to receive a new children’s book that tells the trials and triumphs of NIH’s youngest researchers: "The NIH Rocket Boys: How NIH Gives Health and Hope to Kids and the World." The book is written at a reading level suitable for fourth or fifth graders and can be enjoyed by older readers.

"We’re excited to share this story," says CSR Director Dr. Toni Scarpa. "It shows how great things can happen when we invest in kids and science." Though NIH does not award grants to children, it produces many science education materials for them such as this book.

"The Rocket Boys of NIH" also illustrates how NIH finds and funds the best research. "Few adults understand the impact of our peer review system," said Dr. Scarpa. "This book dramatically shows how outside experts who review NIH applications help us launch research that saves lives and makes people healthier."

NIH currently supports more than 325,000 scientists at more than 3,000 universities, medical schools and other research institutions across the country and around the world.

Boylan enthusiastically volunteered to tell his story for the book. "Can you imagine what a thrill it was," he said, looking back on the award. "It made me think I could do anything." Indeed, his life soared like his rocket. In the late 1960s, he set aside his science books and became a recording artist, touring and recording with various members of Steely Dan, the Linda Ronstadt band and the Eagles.

The NIH review committee probably hadn’t expected this result when they agreed to help a budding scientist. But like many other NIH grants, the $10 grant paid off in unimaginable ways years later. Boylan, who never forgot the thrill and importance of research, now runs the Boylan Foundation for International Medical Research in Rhinebeck, N.Y. The foundation gives grants to medical students and postdoctoral fellows seeking careers in biomedical research. Boylan is also chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, in Salisbury Cove, Maine. It is a non-profit marine and biomedical research facility that specializes in comparative physiology, toxicology and marine functional genomic studies.

Boylan’s little request also had a big impact on NIH. It inspired the director of the NIH Division of Research Grants (now CSR), Dr. Ernest Allen, to start the first education program for children. NIH never forgot the importance of reaching out to young people. Today, the NIH Office of Science Education touches thousands of young people through its educational materials and programs: http://science.education.nih.gov.

To get a copy of this new paperback book, send a request to Rocket Story, NIH Center for Scientific Review, 6701 Rockledge Dr., Room 3030, Bethesda, MD 20892. E-mail requests can be sent to rocket@csr.nih.gov. One can also request a Spanish translation: "Los Chicos, el Cohete y NIH: Como los Institutos Nacionales de Salud dan esperanza y salud a todos los niños y al mundo."

Electronic versions of these books can be downloaded from the following Web page: http://www.csr.nih.gov/rocket/. This Web page also includes a detailed history of the NIH Rocket Boys, images and videos featuring Boylan telling the story.

The Center for Scientific Review organizes the peer review groups that evaluate the majority of grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health. CSR recruits about 16,000 outside scientific experts each year for its review groups. CSR also receives all NIH and many Public Health Service grant applications — about 80,000 a year — and assigns them to the appropriate NIH Institutes and Centers and PHS agencies. CSR’s primary goal is to see that NIH applications receive fair, independent, expert, and timely reviews that are free from inappropriate influences so NIH can fund the most promising research. For more information, visit http://www.csr.nih.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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