That funding for basic science research in the U.S. is bordering on crisis is hardly news to any researcher submitting grant applications today.
While the future of funding is unclear, there is no compelling reason to believe it will ever return to the explosive growth witnessed in recent decades. As such, many believe that the scientific enterprise—the very culture in academia of how we train scientists and run laboratories—is unsustainable.
Marc Kirschner, head of the HMS Department of Systems Biology and the John Franklin Enders University Professor of Systems Biology, has been thinking a lot about this.
Recently, Kirschner teamed up with Bruce Alberts, professor emeritus at UCSF and former editor of the journal Science; Shirley Tilghman, former president of Princeton University; and Harold Varmus, director of the National Cancer Institute, former director of the National Institutes of Health and a Nobel laureate, to author an article on how the scientific community might consider addressing the situation.
Published in PNAS the article's authors intended not to issue a prescription with clear-cut mandates, but rather to begin a national conversation on a topic that should be of vital interest to the scientific community as well as the general public.
Harvard Medicine News took a moment to sit down with Kirschner and discuss the current state of science and what might be done to ensure its future.