The US Congress launched an enquiry into all 'public relations' expenditure by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) following coverage in The Cancer Letter of spending by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Office of Communications and Education (OCE; see Nature 495, 142; 2013). In our view, the criticisms devalue OCE activities and risk diverting attention away from the budget cuts that reduced the NIH's capacity to fund biomedical research.

Critics should note that several OCE activities are mandated or requested by Congress, and that OCE expenditure for the last fiscal year is less than 1% of the NCI's, so cutting this further will barely affect the NCI's research-funding capacity.

Communications are an important part of the NIH's mission. The NIH can only benefit from making NCI services and discoveries more accessible to cancer patients, physicians, researchers and the public.