The uncertainty of financial support will likely drive funding to more seasoned researchers and conservative and safer projects, a move that would be detrimental to new investigators, Dr. Jones said. In addition, decreased research and development investments will slow the pace and make it harder to maintain the country’s current lead in biomedical research.
Explore This IssueOctober 2017
“The field has responded by instituting changes that have significantly expanded the administrative and compliance requirements associated with biomedical research studies,” Dr. Amsler said. “Altogether, the decline in public trust of biomedical research and other issues has dramatically decreased the pipeline of promising new researchers in the biomedical field, which will impact the field for many years to come. Timelines to new breakthroughs will either be lengthened substantially or missed. Public health will not continue to improve at its current pace.”
Dr. Ishii said the United States has distinguished itself on the world stage for its preeminence in biomedical research. “A systemic breakdown in scientific research threatens our international contributions and reputation,” she said.
Dr. Goodman, who co-founded and co-directs Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS), a research-to-action center focused on transforming research practices to improve the quality of scientific studies in biomedicine and beyond, envisions a move toward more reliable research. He foresees fewer weakly informative studies and, instead, more contributors to larger, stronger studies. He also expects more openness in the research system, so others can view data and see if they can derive similar conclusions from it. “Ultimately, the future depends on the policies of funders, journals, and universities,” he said. “We are already in the midst of a sea change regarding what’s necessary to provide the most reliable research.”
Bright and innovative men and women interested in biomedical research who are faced with a mountain of school debt and the grim prospect of the future of research funding may not choose a research career. —Lamont R. Jones, MD, MBA
Improving Deficiencies in Biomedical Research
In the past five to 10 years, Dr. Goodman said some top-level solutions have emerged to deter faulty studies. Some of these include data sharing, better reporting methods, changes in the criteria by which results are declared statistically significant, and changes in the promotion’s criteria requirements for academic medical centers so that they more closely reflect whether the findings of academic research are reliable or are published in a transparent and reproducible way. Currently, no such tracking mechanisms exist. “We’re working to figure out if there are better systems that don’t incentivize the production of so many papers that may not be informative. It’s a complex problem,” he said.