HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

NIH and Funding Preferences for the Cautious

The National Institutes of Health spends around $30 billion per year on biomedical research around the world.  But in an article posted by Reuters last week, according to some experts, the money is not going to the scientists who have the greatest impact on research and advancement of science, but to scientists who are engaged in conventional, incremental scientific research, not the true innovators.  According to the article, only 40 percent of the 700 primary authors of the biomedical papers published since 2001 that had been cited at least 1,000 times were not serving on NIH panels.  Clearly this indicates that the NIH likes its own, rather than original thinkers who might be less well-connected to the establishment.

This means that much of the innovative and creative biomedical research being done today is privately funded.  Sometimes, the private funding comes from a reputable, responsible institution, like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, but sometimes it doesn't.  If creative and innovative research is not being funded by the public, then the public will have trouble getting the benefit of the breakthroughs and controlling the risks  inherent in novel biomedical research.

Although NIH recently established new grants for "pioneering" research, clearly more needs to be done to persuade the NIH to take greater research risks.  NIH should not be falling into the trap that so many private businesses fall into when doing their hiring--wanting to hire somebody who is just like the boss.


Cross-Posted on Healthy Interests

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