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PERSPECTIVES IN BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE Volume Vl · Number 3 · Spting 1963 EDITORIAL: CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT FOR MEDICAL RESEARCH The Congress ofthe United States can think proudly ofits support of medical research and the training ofmedical scientists by funds appropriated to the United States Public Health Service. The research done on both the intramural and the extramural programs is worth many times the cost. But the effectiveness ofthis program is now being threatened by pressures from Congress on the Public Health Service to restrict the freedoms of medical scientists. The use ofpublic funds for medical research has expanded too rapidly as the result of overgenerosity of Congress. There have been abuses in the use offunds by some institutions and some individual scientists. Abuse naturally attracts public attention; it should not be condoned, but the public should also know that, on the whole, these funds have been handled responsibly by the Public Health Service itself, the institutions, and the individual scientists. A more serious criticism is that public funds have been so easily available that the quantity ofresearch has tended to outrun quality ; this natural tendency is a sly force to which some institutions and some scientists yield without a struggle. There are not enough creative medical scientists to properly use all the available funds. There are critical barriers to superior quality and efficiency ofscientific education and research which have not been effectively attacked. First, poor science teaching in many secondary schools and colleges fails to attract the needed number ofgifted students to science, and some ofthose who do undertake graduate and medical education fail to get the necessary prerequisite training. This problem cannot be corrected until the profession ofteaching is adequately honored and rewarded. 277 Second, funds for research activities have outrun funds for the modernization of outmoded, decaying laboratories and the construction of new ones. Third, the physical facilities, both collegiate and graduate, for scientific education and research training fall short ofwhat is required to produce a modern generation ofbiological and medical scientists. Fourth, the Public Health Service program has placed many gifted teachers beyond the range ofstudents by creating many new full-time research positions rewarded by higher salaries than are teaching positions. A talent for teaching and a talent for research do not always coexist—there will always be individuals gifted in one who should not attempt the other; but, in general, teaching and research can and should be complementary. The relatively new Research Career Program, establishing new full-time faculty positions, is a healthy corrective. The use of grant funds for travel, especially foreign travel, has been criticized. ScientistJohnny Appleseed may travel about the world scattering heuristic ideas and gathering others to bring back to his colleagues. The long-term yield from his travel is worth many times the cost. Scientist Douglas Deadwood may travel the same distance with the only effective result that the time ofhis hosts has been wasted and that his own research has ground to a halt in his absence. A substantial number ofscientists drive toward big-time research operations . Sometimes efficiency and effectiveness diminish as the size ofthe research operation expands. Other projects require large teams and costly equipment and are efficiently handled by scientists whose creativity deserves all the support they want to have. The outcomes ofsome such programs could not be achieved by dividing the funds into a number of smaller grants. Some applicants obtain substantial funds by practicing the art ofgrant-getting, which involves exaggeration andpersuasion. The outcomes are sometimes worse than worthless because published data and conclusions are in error. In research management, as in industrial management , executive competence is often proved only in the doing. Incompetence can be identified and eliminated only by means ofcontinuing selfcriticism ofthe scientific community, as represented by the Study Sections and the Advisory Councils. Some spokesmen for congressional committees have objected to the freedom ofthe grantee to change the direction ofresearch away from the 278 Editorial: Congressional SupportforMedical Research Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Spring 1961 project for which the grant was awarded. They thus regard the relationship betweenthe granting agencyand the grantee as contractual. In science, public funds should be used to subsidize the activities of competent investigators . The precise paths that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 277-279
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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