In trouble? The U.S. biomedical research system, including labs such as this one at the National Institutes of Health, is in need of reform, according to four prominent researchers.

Bill Branson/National Institutes of Health

In trouble? The U.S. biomedical research system, including labs such as this one at the National Institutes of Health, is in need of reform, according to four prominent researchers.

U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable,' Prominent Researchers Warn

David is a Deputy News Editor specializing in coverage of science policy, energy and the environment.

The U.S. biomedical science system "is on an unsustainable path" and needs major reform, four prominent researchers write in an opinion piece published today by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers should "confront the dangers at hand,” the authors write, and “rethink” how academic research is funded, staffed, and organized, according to Science Careers (published by AAAS, which also publishes ScienceInsider).

The four authors are Bruce Alberts, former president of the National Academy of Sciences and former editor-in-chief of Science; Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School; Shirley Tilghman, former president of Princeton University; and Harold Varmus, Nobel laureate and current director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Among other issues, they suggest that the system may be producing too many new researchers and forcing them to compete for a stagnating pool of funding.

It’s not the first time research leaders have raised such alarms. In 2012, Tilghman co-chaired an advisory panel to the National Institutes of Health, NCI’s parent and the nation’s major biomedical research funder, that suggested a glut of trainees and a dearth of academic positions were creating a dysfunctional biomedical research system.

Posted in Biology, Policy, Scientific Community