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Greener Pastures

The thought of US researchers leaving to pursue scientific opportunities elsewhere is what keeps National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins up at night, writes Jeanne Whalen at the Wall Street Journal's Pharmalot blog.

At the JP Morgan conference, Collins warned that decreased government funding for science is limiting the proposals NIH can fund — he said it used to be able to fund about a third of the grant applications it received while it now can fund closer to 16 percent of proposals. (Earlier this week, a paper appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association said that the US is losing its historical lead in biomedical research investment and output.)

"That means we're leaving half the science on the table that we once would have funded," Collins tells Whalen. US researchers, Whalen adds, could also move to other countries like China that are significantly increasing their science funding.

Collins notes that when he meets with his colleagues running foreign research agencies, they can't believe the US funding issue.

"When we go around the table they talk about a 1 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent increase, and in the case of China, a 22 percent increase, and I say we'll be lucky to not lose more this year. They look at us like we're crazy. You're the United States! We've been reading your playbook!" Collins says.

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