WASHINGTON -- Last month 10 scientists got to keep their labs open, thanks to a new policy at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The policy lets NIGMS edge further away from scientific merit in funding decisions and ration support so smaller laboratories can survive the increased competition for NIH funds. The beneficiaries are those scientists - like the 10 who didn't make the initial cutoff - who have no other sources of support or who are first-time applicants. The potential losers are those with more than $500,000 in grants and those whose grant renewals call for big increases.

The new policy comes in response to increased concern that investigators at small laboratories are being squeezed out of research. Although the NIH budget has grown steadily, it has not kept pace with the increased cost and size of the research enterprise. A decade ago, one in three meritorious grants...

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