Rising Tides and Targeted Science Funding: The Gain for Basic Research

A key point of Harvey Black's Feb. 18 article in The Scientist on targeted research initiatives and earmarking of funds1—that, by sidestepping peer review, this practice may subvert scientific inquiry and, more specifically, reduce funds for basic research—is a valid concern. However, criticism of targeted research programs on this tenet alone amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. After all, these initiatives are often created to fill specific needs otherwise unmet or

Jeff Cheek
May 12, 2002
A key point of Harvey Black's Feb. 18 article in The Scientist on targeted research initiatives and earmarking of funds1—that, by sidestepping peer review, this practice may subvert scientific inquiry and, more specifically, reduce funds for basic research—is a valid concern. However, criticism of targeted research programs on this tenet alone amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. After all, these initiatives are often created to fill specific needs otherwise unmet or underserved, and I would argue that there are consequential benefits for basic research that result from this process. In addition, there is another compelling point in Black's article that merits elaboration: the need to educate the public about research priorities.

Admittedly, I am a biased observer on this issue. Colorado was one of the few states with the foresight to invest some of its proceeds (from the national Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco...