United States biomedical research is the envy of all other nations. Its success and explosive growth are due to an efficient partnership between public funding and academic research. But this doesn't mean that the partnership is in every respect beyond improvement. Take, for instance, individual investigator-initiated grants (or R01s, in NIH vernacular).

The R01 is the instrument by which new ideas can best be tried and developed. Appropriately, these grants have commanded an increasing share of the NIH budget; in the past five years alone the number of active R01s has increased by 25 percent.

R01s have evolved to become not only the cornerstone of biomedical research support, but also the prime factor in determining advancement of academic biomedical researchers. In awarding R01s, NIH study sections may now play a more important role in influencing who is appointed, promoted, or granted tenure than do promotion committees.

R01s have also come...

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