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Science  22 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6468, pp. 941-943
DOI: 10.1126/science.366.6468.941

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Summary

Since 1988, the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) Loan Repayment Program has aimed to keep promising young biomedical scientists in academic research by helping repay school loans that can run up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Without it, supporters say, many of these researchers might have chosen lucrative slots at pharmaceutical companies or in private practice. Since 2004, the program has paid nearly $1.1 billion for more than 22,000 new or renewal awards to researchers, and it has touted its success through "ambassadors"—models of success who counsel applicants. But a Science investigation shows that more one-third of the 182 clinical scientist ambassadors whose years of participation could be determined broke the program's rules against certain forms of industry funding. (NIH's own analysis finds a smaller number of violations.) The extensive rule breaking is leading some observers to question the public purpose and fairness of a generous taxpayer subsidy for young scientists.

  • * This story was supported by the Science Fund for Investigative Reporting.

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