Systemic flaws in biomedical research?

In March an interesting paper by 4 prominent scientists was published in PNAS ( In this paper, they discuss the flaws in the system of biomedical research in the US. I believe, however, that the paper describes the struggles and frustration of scientist in Europe as well. I think that it is important for all young scientist, although not very motivating, to read this paper. It might be even more relevant for those among you who are finalizing their MSc studies and contemplating whether to start a PhD.

As authors put it, ‘the biological and medical sciences are definitely in a golden age’.  Nevertheless, the way that the research and research funding are structured contains some serious flaws which might eventually undermine the research itself. Furthermore, it is not a secret that some of the features of the current situation make the pursuit of career in research increasingly challenging. To cut the long story short, the authors notice that all the trouble is biomedical research starts because of the belief that the research system can expand infinitely. The fact that the funding for research is limited stands in a sharp contrast to this assumption. The authors also stress that there is a huge discrepancy between the number of trained researchers and the number of positions (in and outside of academia) which are suitable for people with this particular training. All this leads to ‘hypercompetition’ and limitations of time available for the actual creative research work.

Please, do not get me wrong, I would not like this paper to discourage anyone from pursuing their dreams and passions. I definitely do not regret the time I have spent doing my PhD because I have learned a lot and developed tremendously. It is wise, however, to get a good picture of the situation at which science is now. I simply hope that you will find this PNAS paper a good food for thought.


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