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Archive for the ‘life science funding’ Category

The End is Near for American Scientific Supremacy

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-12-2014

For as long as most of us can remember, America has remained at the top of the scientific food chain. American scientists were generously funded, supported by robust government policies and able to secure world-class training at the best scientific institutions. All that is about to change, however, as many economists are predicting that within 5 years, China will be spending more on scientific R&D than their American counterparts.

According to the OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2014, China’s total R&D budget match the US’s $400 Billion scientific budget by the year 2016 and will grow to as much as $600 Billion by 2024. In contrast, the American R&D budget is only predicted to grow by 19%, (from approximately $410 Billion to $490 Billion), during that same period.

Despite this positive outlook for China, several critics have claimed that China’s fast assent into the scientific limelight comes at the expense of research quality. Such assertions have been supported by the disproportional rate of scientific paper retraction on behalf of Chinese scientists when compared to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, since the Chinese funding sources give preference to the quantity of scientific papers published when evaluating scientific merit, the rash of retractions will not likely abate any time soon.

It is also interesting to note that the majority of Chinese funding is dedicated to building infrastructure with much less spent on bench research itself. This has led to a situation where there is a disconnect between the number of well-equipped labs in China and the quality of research papers coming out of those labs.

So should we be afraid that soon, many of our best scientists will likely explore greener pastures in China or is it possible that China’s bark is much bigger than its bite? Only time will tell.

University Nets Huge Grant to Analyze World’s Largest Collection of Brain Scans

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 10-15-2014

In a rare distinction for one university, neuroimaging world leaders and USC Professors Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson will receive two major research center awards to advance their exploration of the human brain.

Toga and Thompson each will establish a Center of Excellence under a National Institutes of Health initiative to mine discoveries from the vast and exponentially growing amounts of data created by imaging science, genetic sequencing and many other biomedical fields.

The awards total $12 million and $11 million for Toga and Thompson, respectively, over four years. NIH is funding several Centers of Excellence, including the two at USC, under its Big Data to Knowledge initiative.

Read more…

Extinguishing the Flames of Scientific Creativity

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 09-17-2014

Like most of my friends, I fell in love with science at a very early age and decided to live my dream by becoming a scientist. If you are reading this post, chances are that you too share this feeling and are passionate about science. Unfortunately, there are many passion-killers out there and the reality of living life as a scientists is too much to bear for many seasoned researchers. In a very interesting article published in NPR last week, author Richard Harris describes the struggle of two men who had successful science careers and the reasons they left the lab behind to pursue other interests.

I urge you to read the original article on NPR. You will be introduced to former Professor, Ian Glomski who had a well funded lab at the University of Virginia. Dr. Glomski’s was funded to do predictable and somewhat boring research. Like the rest of us, he too entered science to fulfill his passion and his line of research was not answering that call. So Ian asked the NIH to fund a revolutionary idea that he hoped would rock his world of research. Unfortunately, his ideas were never funded and with his loss of funding, down went his science career.

You will also read about Dr. Randen Patterson who also tried, unsuccessfully, to receive funding for unconventional, yet potentially ground breaking research. When his idea was shot down, he too left the university, never to set foot in an academic lab again.

The article laments a funding system that fits scientists safely into a standardized square box and penalizes those who dare propose to do something different. Every scientist dreams about conducting Nobel-Prize-worthy research. Every scientist is desperately seeking that Eureka! moment. We all entered science to fulfill that spark. Shouldn’t our funding systems be geared towards fanning the flames of creativity rather than extinguishing the flames in a drought of funding?

New NIH Resubmission Rule Great for Young Investigators

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 04-29-2014

According to a new policy released earlier this month, the National Institute of Health (NIH) will now allow unsuccessful applicants to resubmit their application for the next application round without including any new information in the resubmitted grant.

The NIH claimed that due to the funding crisis, many meritorious applications, which would have otherwise been funded, were turned down. According to the old policy, the rejected applications could not be resubmitted in their original form and would have had to be reworked before being resubmitted. The effect of this policy was that applicants would have to add new material in the resubmitted grant, despite the fact that the application was strong to begin with. Furthermore, young investigators, already dejected by the original grant rejection, were more apt to leave their positions rather than having to redo and resubmit their original grant. By allowing scientists to resubmit their original grant without significant changes, the NIH will significantly increase the number of meritorious applications in subsequent rounds.

Until October 2008, the NIH did not have resubmission rules governing the grant application process. In a sweeping change in 2008, the NIH placed restrictions on the type of content applicants were allowed to resubmit and instituted a two strike rule that meant that the applicant needed to substantially re-design the project rather than simply change the application in response to previous reviews. The new policy reverses that ruling and will hopefully encourage more young investigators to pursue their dreams without the fear of rejection or failure.

New Study: Funding Science is Good for the US Economy

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 04-04-2014

University research is a key component of the US economic ecosystem, returning the investment through enormous public value and impact on employment, business, and manufacturing nationwide.

Using new data available to examine the short-term economic activity generated by science funding, researchers have for the first time been able to illuminate the breadth of the scientific workforce and the national impact of the research supply chain that is funded by federal grants.

Most of the workers supported by federal research funding are not university faculty members. In fact, fewer than one in five workers supported by federal funding are faculty researchers. The study, published this week in the journal Science, provides the first detailed information about the short-term economic impacts of federal research spending, the researchers said.

Using a new data set, the researchers also found that each university that receives funding spends those dollars throughout the United States – about 70 percent spent outside their home states – supporting companies both large and small.

The researchers conclude that federal funding has a wider impact than is often assumed. “The process of scientific research supports organizations and jobs in many of the high skill sectors of our economy,” the researchers wrote in Science.

The study was conducted by researchers from the American Institute of Research, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, University of Michigan, University of Chicago, and the Ohio State University. The data came from the STAR METRICS project, which is a partnership between federal science agencies and research institutions to document the outcomes of science investments to the public.

In this study, the researchers examined STAR METRICS data from nine universities – Michigan, Wisconsin-Madison, Minnesota, Ohio State, Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan State, Chicago and Indiana (all members of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation consortium).

The universities in this study received about $7 billion in total research and development funding in 2012, and about 56 percent of that came from the federal government.

One key insight from the study was whose jobs were supported by federal funding. “Workers with many different skill levels are employed, and these are not primarily faculty,” the authors said.

Faculty members accounted for fewer than 20 percent of the people supported by federal funding. About one in three workers is either a graduate student or an undergraduate. One in three is either research staff or a staff scientist, and about one in ten is a post-doctoral fellow.

The study also sheds light on where universities spend the federal funding they receive. In 2012, almost $1 billion of research expenditures were spent with U.S. vendors and subcontractors.

Of those expenditures, 15 percent went to vendors in the university’s home county, 15 percent in the rest of the home state and the balance to vendors across the United States.

The researchers noted that universities bought goods and services from a wide range of contractors in a variety of industries: everything from test tubes to telescopes and microscopes to gene sequencing machines.

Many of the purchases came from large U.S companies. But as the researchers examined the websites of some of the tens of thousands of vendors, “we were struck by how many are small, niche, high-technology companies…” they wrote.

Noting the scope of the impact of scientific work being done across universities, co-author Roy Weiss, Deputy Provost for Research at the University of Chicago, said, “Research universities are dedicated to the discovery of new knowledge. This study reports the first cooperative endeavor by multiple universities to evaluate the benefit of government investment in research. In addition to making the world a better place by virtue of these discoveries, we now have data to support the overall benefits to society.”

“The main purpose of science funding isn’t as a jobs or stimulus program, but this study shows there are also major short-term economic benefits to science funding,” said Bruce Weinberg, co-author and professor of economics at Ohio State.

As Julia Lane, Senior Managing Economist at the American Institutes for Research and a lead researcher on the project, summarized, “This study provides evidence that while science is complicated, it is not magic. It is productive work. Scientific endeavors employ people. They use capital inputs. Related economic activity occurs immediately. Policy makers need to have an understanding of how science is produced when making resource allocation decisions, and this study provides that information in a reliable and current fashion.”

Thanks to the Committee on Institutional Cooperation for contributing this story.