One of the few things that most Americans still believe is that we have the best biomedical research system in the world and that the National Institutes of Health is its indispensable heart. NIH has a dual function: to support basic research in relevant sciences and to support research designed to apply scientific data equitably to improve the health of all United States residents.

These two functions are fundamentally different. Basic biomedical research can be, and always should be, as rigorous, specific, and precise in its observations and reports as any of the hard sciences (classical physics, chemistry, and biology). The education of scientists who carry out such research is long and arduous. Only people who are able and willing to submit to the discipline demanded by the specialty they choose to study can hope to make some meaningful contributions by their research.

The second function, the application of the...

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