Overbuilding Research Capacity

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Science  10 Sep 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5997, pp. 1257
DOI: 10.1126/science.1197077


Policies that offer incentives for individuals and institutions can unintentionally induce harmful behaviors. One such perverse incentive encourages U.S. universities, medical centers, and other research institutions to expand their research capacities indefinitely through funds derived from National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grants. A reliance on the NIH to pay not only the salaries of scientists but also the overhead (or indirect) costs of building construction and maintenance has become a way of life at many U.S. research institutions, with potential painful consequences. The current trajectory is unsustainable, threatening to produce a glut of laboratory facilities reminiscent of the real estate bust of 2008 and, worse, a host of exhausted scientists with no means of support.

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