Funding Innovative Science

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Science  11 Jan 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6116, pp. 119
DOI: 10.1126/science.1234741

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It is a well-known problem: a junior research group leader must somehow compete against the seniors, who have larger laboratories, good funding, and clout with the journals. Furthermore, in the normal grant system, preliminary data requirements make it hard to start new directions in research. Beginning scientists must build on their postdoctoral work, which forces them to continue along already-trodden paths. Once a laboratory has been established, it is reasonable for the reviewers of competitive grant applications to look for evidence of an investigator's likely success in the form of “preliminary results.” But beginning group leaders should be judged only by their demonstrated excellence and their creativity in finding new directions. Such a change would greatly stimulate innovation.