More than 750 microbiologists have signed an open letter to the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), complaining that huge increases in biodefense research funding over the past few years have forced deep cuts in NIH grants allocated for basic research. The director of the NIH institute that allocates many of those grants was quick to call the figures misleading.

Meanwhile, confusion involving Richard Ebright, a professor at Rutgers University who helped organize the letter-signing effort; Science, where the letter was published; and members of the national media who had received embargoed versions of the letter led Science to release it yesterday, a day before Ebright had intended.

Ebright told The Scientist that NIH's spending on biodefense is leaving critical basic research going undone. That imbalance makes it more likely that the next breakthroughs in microbial biology will not be made by American scientists, he said....

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