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Health Policy, Medical Education, Medicine and Society, NIH, Science Policy

Payback time for NIH grant recipients?

What if scientists who benefit from grants from the National Institutes of Health had to devote some small portion of their time explaining to the public what their work is about? That’s the idea being floated by Suzanne Pfeffer, PhD, Stanford biochemistry professor and the new president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

In her column in the August issue of the society’s magazine, Pfeffer estimates that if every NIH investigator donated 60 minutes of their time, that could amount to 10,000 hours of educational activities such as talks to elementary school students, public forums and tours of scientists’ laboratories.

The idea is well within the realm of the possible, and indeed a similar measure is already in place for recipients of grants from the National Science Foundation. Pfeffer offers detail on how such an effort could work, and she offers, in a nutshell, why it makes sense:

Explaining science to the public is very important. First, we owe it to them. Taxpayers support a large proportion of biomedical research in the U.S. and in other countries around the world. At a time when public understanding of science could use a major boost, who better to explain the excitement and importance of scientific discoveries than highly trained biomedical researchers?


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