I’m headed for a meeting in Bethesda this afternoon. As many readers know, I was a postdoc at the NIH after I graduated with my PhD from Michigan in 1987. I also lived there for six years at a time before 9/11 when the campus of NIH will still wide-open, more like a college than the federal installation that it is.
NIH (and here I’m referring to the intramural program that has a campus in Bethesda) has faced many challenges over the years and has managed to thrive in spite. It’s a place that structurally facilitates the sort of high-risk, high-payoff research made possible by freeing investigators from the need to constantly be writing new grant applications.
When I was there, the real limit on my research was my own imagination– in stark contrast to the challenges that young investigators often face in the academy.
All of this may soon be at real risk as the US faces the so called “fiscal cliff” next January. The biomedical research at NIH is one of the few government programs that has maintained real bipartisan support over the years since the World War II. The reason is of course, that NIH makes a real difference in the everyday lives of Americans and…that it just plain works.