Total of new awards for individual investigators, long seen as a barometer of the agency's welfare, is object of controversy
ASHINGTON--Numbers are the lifeblood of science, a way to quantify the search for truth. But a number can also make a political statement. In fact, the current bitter debate within the biomedical community over the National Institutes of Health's commitment to research proposed by individual investigators can be summed up in a single number: 6,000.

As a rallying cry, the 6,000 figure has become a symbol for a vocal group of bench scientists who want Congress to insist that the National Institutes of Health guarantee to award at least that number of new and competing grants each year for investigator-initiated research. Most working scientists view this type of research, known in NIH parlance as "R01s," as vital. "We believe that R01 grants should remain the highest priority item in the...

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