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All About the Basics

Basic research is still a key part of what the US National Institutes of Health supports, writes agency director Francis Collins and his colleagues in a letter appearing in Science this week.

They write that they are concerned by the perception that NIH is moving away from basic research."[I]nvestigators have told us that the requirement for a 'Public Health Relevance' statement in every NIH research grant application suggests that every project must relate directly to a public health concern — that NIH places less value on projects that cannot be expected to yield an immediate public health benefit," Collins and his colleagues write. "This is simply not true."

To combat this, they announce that they've updated that section of the grant application instructions. It now tells applicants to "describe how, in the short or long term, the research would contribute to fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and/or the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability."

This revision, Collins and his colleagues say, better reflects the NIH mission to support diverse research, including basic research.