Continued Push of Public Funding for ResearchMay 20, 2015
In the 1950s, Vannevar Bush proposed the public funding of research. He argued, and many agreed, that basic scientific research was essential for the good of the country, but it wasn’t feasible for private companies to support the effort.
Basic science, or the understanding of the fundamental biology of a system that is not directly related or linked to a specific disease state, is essential. It provides the fundamentals on which disease or system specific related findings are built upon. It is not feasible, however, for pharmaceutical companies or other industry to support this basic research, but what is discovered does flow into the biomedical industry and does lead to breakthrough findings.
What Dr. Bush proposed turned into the National Science Foundation (NSF). Since that time, government supported research has blossomed and today biomedical research in the US is largely supported by the NSF, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Defense (DoD), and others. This also includes government grants to universities and colleges that provide the funding support to conduct research, teach students, and train the next generation of scientists. Most of the funding are distributed through peer-reviewed grants to academic institutions and their individual labs.
Because of the NSF, NIH, and other government agency support of science, the US has become the leader in cutting edge research. While there are areas that can be reformed and sources of redundancy can and should be eliminated, the fundamental idea that the government has a duty to support scientific research for the overall good of the public still stands.