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All the Generations

Recent trends in funding may lead young scientists to shy away from research careers, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins warns.

As Sam Stein writes at the Huffington Post, investments in scientific research are falling compared with inflation, and Collins has written in the Journal of the American Medical Association and said before the US House of Representatives that that will lead to fewer scientific discoveries and cause the US to lose its leadership in the sciences.

"This is the issue that wakes me up at night when I try to contemplate the future of where biomedical research can go in the United States," Collins says. "[Young researchers] are finding themselves in a situation that is the least supportive of that vision in 50 years. They look ahead of them and see the more senior scientists struggling to keep their labs going and suffering rejection after rejection of grants that previously would have been [supported]. And they wonder, 'Do we really want to sign up for that?' And many of them, regrettably, are making the decision to walk away."

At his blog, DrugMonkey bemoans that the mid-career researcher is getting lost in the shuffle as funding agencies focus on new investigators and even develop emeritus awards for older researchers who are beginning to wind down their labs.

"Some of us are surviving. Yes. This is obvious. Some of us are thriving. Some of us squeaking by on fumes and prayers. [Most] of us yo-yo between these extremes," he adds. Still, DrugMonkey, in reference to a comment by BioScientist, says that Gen X scientists, because of the time they've spent on failed proposals, fruitless preliminary data, and more, won't be able to live up to their scientific potential.

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