FASEB Releases Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Science

By | January 15, 2015

This week, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) released an analysis of the threats to continued progress in biological and medical science research. Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Science: A Framework for Discussion examines the challenges facing researchers and presents a series of recommendations to alleviate them. This project was initiated in 2013 in response to a recommendation made during a meeting of former FASEB presidents. Over the next year and a half, FASEB staff collected data, conducted analyses, and coordinated a series of discussions to identify the key issues and proposed remedies. The project was conducted under the auspices of FASEB’s Science Policy Committee, and the results of this process were summarized in a draft discussion framework that was reviewed by the FASEB Board and the member societies. In order to incorporate a wider range of insights and perspectives, a series of three roundtable meetings was convened. During these sessions representatives of FASEB and its constituent societies spoke with officials from funding agencies, subject matter experts from other fields, representatives from organizations of research institutions, and other stakeholder groups.

Sustaining Discovery documents how shortfalls in federal funding and rising administrative costs have constrained research budgets. At the same time, a highly productive system of research training has generated a growing population of scientists. Research institutions are requiring more of their scientists to seek external funds to support their research activities and pay salaries. As a result, more individuals are seeking funding in an environment of reduced federal investment, rising costs, and growing regulatory expenses.

In the newly released statement, FASEB offers three broad categories of recommendations for consideration. First, the entire research community must strive to make optimal use of existing resources while escalating its advocacy for predictable, sustainable growth in research budgets. Reducing the cost of regulatory compliance, coupled with more concerted efforts to develop shared research resources and facilities, can free up funds for new research projects. Second, the community must take a careful look at the way it funds research, making certain that incentives are provided to encourage the best science and reduce the amount of time spent seeking for funding. Third, action must be taken to improve preparation and utilization of the workforce. This should include examining the incentives for quality and quantity in research training and making sure that educational goals are not compromised by the pressures to produce short-term results.

FASEB is releasing Sustaining Discovery for comment by the members of our societies and the broader research community. To facilitate feedback from our community, we have created a website for reviewing the document and recording comments.

This project was chaired by FASEB President-Elect Parker B. Antin, PhD. Bethany Drehman, PhD of FASEB’s Office of Public Affairs served as the staff liaison with guidance from Howard Garrison, PhD and Yvette Seger, PhD. FASEB President Joseph R. Haywood, PhD took an active role in the effort and co-chaired discussions of major issues.