Recently, I've had occasion to ask several different scientists on several different projects why their particular lines of research haven't been studied more. Unsurprisingly, the answer usually boils down to money. "These days there are not a lot of research dollars," Stanford pathologist Edgar Engleman, MD, told me a few weeks ago.
Now, it's true that the NIH spends more than $30 billion a year on medical research, and the stimulus package may help bump that number up in the short term (You can see the NIH budget here and Jonathan's post on the subject here). But there are lots of unanswered questions out there, and almost as much controversy as to how money is best spent.
In the Saturday New York Times, Gina Kolata delves into the issue with a look at National Cancer Institute funding. She finds that the grant system favors safe, incremental research over risky stuff, even though the high-risk research could have higher payoff. The story reminded me of Denise Faustman, MD, PhD, a diabetes researcher whose Type-1 diabetes studies were only possible thanks to a huge cash infusion by the Iacocca Foundation. But according to Kolata, such private charities are now struggling and are less able to step in and fund pie-in-the-sky projects.
So with all that in mind, how would you like to adopt a scientist? Come on! Look how cute they are!