Dr. Rajan was absolutely right to question the current air of disdain accorded to "descriptive" studies by reviewers of grant applications.1 The ultimate goal of the National Institutes of Health is to remove the costly and painful burden of disease that prevents the full expression of a healthy human society. That being so, the ultimate model for investigation is not the HeLa cell, the mouse, or even the fruit fly, but the human being. Of course all sorts of nonhuman model systems have provided a wealth of valuable and relevant information, but--for NIH grantees at any rate--these data should not be considered ends in themselves, rather, steps in an inexorable march on human disease.

Those who decry "descriptive" studies seem blinkered to this goal. Highly focused, tenacious, and ultrareductionist, they seek nothing better than molecular resolution of simple linear pathways. Thank goodness atomic resolution is for the most part...

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