Point Grants:NIGMS' Marvin Cassman agrees that risky proposals don't get funded.

The traditional, romantic notion of scientific research is of a glorious, serendipitous journey into the unknown. But this ideal is belied, in the perception of many scientists, by the apparent reality that much of what gets funded these days is less exploratory and more predictable_cloning and sequencing a gene, for example.

While not denying the importance of such predictable studies, the scientific community shares a nearly universal conviction that proposals for risky, innovative research stand very little chance of being funded by federal granting agencies. Grant administrators themselves acknowledge that unconventional ideas or those with a short or disputed track record rarely make the cut.

"Controversial areas will not do as well as applications where there is broad consensus," states Marvin Cassman, acting director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). "Given the degree of...

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