In a recent letter to Nature, the Mayo Clinic's Matthew Kumar says that since researchers use taxpayers' money to fund their research, researchers have an "obligation to reduce waste and inefficiency and to work within their means." NIH, unlike companies, does not get a good return on its investment in science, he says. "In 2010, after spending nearly $3.1 billion of taxpayers' money on intramural research, the NIH received $91.6 million in royalties and was issued with 134 patents," Kumar writes in Nature. "By contrast, in 2009 IBM spent $6.5 billion on research and development, generated $15.1 billion in revenue and was issued with 4,914 patents."
Bayblab's Kamel says that "on the surface, this doesn't sound too bad. ... The problem is what Kumar views as 'waste.'" He argues that Kumar is not making a fair comparison as he is pointing to a company outside health research and academic institutions have other roles, such as education. "But the worst part is the implication that basic research is a waste — that if you're not generating revenue or patents, it's not worth it," he says.