The curse of soft money….

UCSF’s Henry Bourne has an interesting piece out in PNAS about the boom/bust cycle in biomedical research and specifically how the most recent version played out with vast over-building of infrastructure combined with a shift to soft-money support for PI’s. The documentation of the problems is very impressive, however the notion that this can be fixed piecemeal at a few “pioneer” research institutions I think is dead wrong. To my mind, such elitism is exactly how we arrived at our current situation. And in fact, I’m pleased to report that it’s actually at non-elite institutions where the hard money regime still exists, supported by tuition and, in the case of publics, some state support.

Do I have a solution? Here’s a possibility: I urge my biomedical colleagues to take a hard look at the decadal surveys of other fields (e.g. astronomy or oceanography) where hard prioritization choices are made nationally on the basis of evidence.

Reinventing biomedical research support in the United States….

The absolutely seminal article by Alberts, Kirschner, Tilghman and Varmus is here, published in PNAS. If you can’t get behind the firewall, read the news story here.

Short version: the labor economics of biomedical research needs to be rebalanced because it’s currently unsustainable. From a macro-standpoint, the number of doctoral students and postdocs need to be reduced and that smaller number need to be better supported.

I agree with all of the article’s recommendations. This is important stuff….