In a series of installments (here, here, and here), NPR has been doing some much-needed reporting on the American scientific research enterprise. As an avid listener of public radio, I have caught these stories during my morning commute… and hopefully the same is true for the general NPR community as well.
Today they report on top scientists suggesting fixes for the medical funding crisis. From Nobel Prize winner Dr. Harold Varmus in the article:
The funding challenges “were never, in my experience, anywhere as dramatic as they are now.”
So how do we fix this problem? Dr. Varmus continues:
One idea is to reduce the number of young scientists being trained for careers that don’t exist, and to instead hire staff scientists to carry out more of the day-to-day lab-work that the apprentices now perform.
Other suggestions include transitioning towards an HHMI like system, funding creative ideas instead of specific proposals (where most of the work has already been done anyway). Along with other influential scientists, Dr. Varmus and colleagues have published their suggestions for fixing the unsustainable biomedical research system in PNAS.
As for the present, the outlook is still bleak:
Maybe, eventually, the threat of losing this competitive edge will spur the U.S. Congress to address the underlying problems in the way it authorizes funding for biomedical research. But that appears to be a distant prospect. In the meantime, another ancient injunction to doctors, ‘Physician, heal thyself,’ seems apt. The research establishment will try to find a way to ease the pain, on own.
Looks like we have to fix these problems without help. As critical thinkers, troubleshooters, and experimenters, I have faith that scientists are fully equipped to tackle these issues on their own! Thanks again to NPR for exposing the problems facing U.S. biomedical research!