The world in general, and the US in particular, is spending too much on goal-directed, targeted biomedical research while undervaluing both applied and theoretical physics. Picture Leonardo da Vinci drawing helicopters: that’s the modern-day cancer researcher. The universal cure for cancer — and there should be one, if humanity survives long enough to create it — will not come from an NIH grant. If grants are involved at all, it will be something initially funded by the National Science Foundation. The current system of funding (government, non-profit, biotech, you name it) is broken, and if you account for the opportunity cost it is a complete disaster. Each of these statements deserves at least a paragraph, but I am saving my carpal tunnels for a manuscript, an LOI, and a couple of protocols (oh, the irony).
In the meantime, a few things physician-scientists should do for the overall good:
- find causes and create better prevention strategies, because a look at the SEER database will tell you that it’s not just bad luck;
- eliminate barriers for administration of known curative therapies world-wide (do we really want to leave this to politicians and economists?);
- ensure rapid and honest evaluation of the many new treatments, procedures, and diagnostic/prognostic methods coming out of the biomedical behemoth.
How beneficial any of this would be for one’s career is a different question altogether, but let’s not get into incentives because RSI. I am also very open to opposing opinions, since my being wrong would make my life easier.