The Problem

Since the publication of Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flawswe have had many conversations with participants at all levels within the biomedical community. These range from undergraduate students considering embarking on a research career, to deans of medical schools and national leaders in scientific policy. There is agreement that the current culture is not conducive to conducting the most creative and innovative science and threatens to turn away the next generation of brilliant young scientists.

The following list of issues informs our thinking about future action:

  1. There are too many researchers seeking too few dollars in the U.S. biomedical research enterprise. This has led to a hypercompetitive environment that prefers conservative, short-term thinking that seeks guaranteed success over riskier approaches.
  2. Our best young scientists become independent investigators at an average age of 37-38, meaning they have been in dependent positions during their most creative years.
  3. There is a widely shared perception in the U.S. biomedical research community that the National Institutes of Health values translational research over fundamental, basic research. This affects how researchers approach scientific problems and may compromise the rate at which new discoveries are made.
  4. The increasing time required for grant writing, manuscript revisions and mandatory administrative tasks associated with research are overwhelming and distract researchers from critically thinking about their science.
  5. The inflated value of publishing in high-impact journals affects the way scientists judge each other, as well as adversely affecting the reproducibility of research.
  6. Current indirect cost rules encourage institutions to expand their faculty without making firm commitments to them, almost guaranteeing an unsustainable future.

A number of excellent articles have provided important additions to the conversation. This includes: