Warnings on Future of U.S. Biomedical Research System

April 15, 2014

The United States' historical strength in biomedical research faces longterm decline because assumptions about never-ending growth have run headlong into a decade's worth of funding declines, a quartet of esteemed science leaders argues in a new article (abstract available here) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors -- who include Harold Varmus, the former head of the National Institutes of Health, Shirley Tilghman, former president of Princeton University, Bruce Alberts, editor in chief of Science magazine, and Marc Kirschner, professor of systems biology at Harvard University -- argue that the funding buildup followed by shortfall has created an "unsustainable hypercompetitive" environment that is hampering the work of established scientists and discouraging new researchers from entering the field.

Among the group's recommendations are funding biomedical graduate students with training grants and fellowships instead of research grants, and awarding grants based more on the quality of the scientists than the merits of the projects.

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