IOM's How-to for Big Biology

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Science  27 Jun 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5628, pp. 2015
DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5628.2015b

The U.S. government needs a more systematic way of dealing with bioscience megaprojects, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine. The report outlines seven recommendations for scientists who are tackling big projects such as untangling how genes and proteins interact to make cells work.

For starters, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) needs “a more open and systematic method” for soliciting and vetting proposals, the report says. “People found it difficult to find a place to send them,” says panel chair Joseph Simone, former head of a cancer center and now a consultant in Dunwoody, Georgia. NIH also needs “clear but flexible” entry and exit plans and should “avoid the accumulation of additional institutes.” For instance, the panel noted that the Human Genome Institute has struggled to redefine its mission since completing its namesake task.

The report also recommends developing incentives and rewards for scientists willing to spend their careers guiding large projects, which can now be “academically deadly,” says Simone. The report may help guide NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, who plans to promote multi-investigator science.

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