As a scientist involved in biomedical research, I am outraged at the priorities apparent in President Reagan's proposed budget. Pentagon research and development is to be increased by 19% after inflation. In contrast, in a little publicized maneuver, the Reagan Administration has reduced the number of biomedical research grants to be funded this year by 23%, by exploiting a loophole in the appropriations already approved by Congress for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
I refuse to believe that the American public would really choose to slash medical research while increasing spending for research into new and better ways of killing people, so I must conclude that people do not understand the way biomedical research works.
Research scientists must not only "publish or perish," we must also support our research by getting grants. Writing grant proposals is difficult and time-consuming. A typical proposal may be a 100-page document, which must thoroughly document preliminary experiments and current research on the subject, and must meticulously describe the methods to be used, the feasibility and goals of the project, and its relevance to the advancement of knowledge and to possible cures of disease. Grant proposals are carefully reviewed by a panel of scientists, and are then "graded." Only the proposals with the highest "grades" are funded. There is already intense competition, and Reagan's action will reduce the number of research projects funded from the 6,500 approved by Congress to 5,000.