Something has to give
When I decided to hitch my future on the hope that I could run a lab and fulfill my passion about discovering new things about biology and how our bodies work, Clinton was president. It was in the early 2000s and the administration awarded $2.8 billion dollars to the NIH (doubling the budget). Many universities were hiring new faculty and building new buildings. The future was bright.
In the last 16 or so years, I have become a very talented scientist (along with many of my colleagues). Today I resubmitted a grant with a colleague for the 6th time. This collaborative project has received much interest from the field and excellent scores (we were ranked on one submission in the top 20% of grants) by our colleague on our future ideas. Yet, because the NIH budget has not been increased sufficiently, we needed to be in the top 13% of grants. Instead of spending our time analyzing our data, we have spent too much time trying to figure out what the NIH panels will fund.
This problem was highlighted recently. I have seen the morale and esteem (and careers) of many talented scientists diminished. We (scientists) cannot be brave in the face of the unknown (new scientific discoveries) when we fear how our students and postdocs will be funded next year. Something has to give, and I think the future of science is what is being “given”.