I finally got a chance to watch the discussion that grew out of the #modelorg debate last week. You can skip about the first ten minutes of scientists just trying to figure out how to use the internet and get right to the point: @MTomasson thinks it's silly to spend federal dollars on anything that can't be in clinical use with a year or two, unless funds are unlimited.
It will surprise almost no one that I think that's the dumbest, most short-term, view of science funding I have heard in quite some time.
Let's assume for a second that we're just talking about NIH*. With the announcement yesterday that NIH is going to have to kill 700 grants in the coming fiscal, it's clear that things are getting tighter in the short term, not better. From a "boots on the ground" perspective, I can understand the interest in focusing the remaining dollars on work that is clinically relevant in the foreseeable future. But let's make a sports analogy to that situation.
Basically we're talking about a baseball team deciding to trade away all it's farm system for the big-contract super stars of other teams. In the short term the team is stacked and plows through the competition, producing results. But in a couple of years those stars decline and there's no one waiting in the system to step up. Maybe you can throw money at a few free agents, but you end up with a bloated payroll and a mediocre team.
If we concentrate resources on research in humans that we can get into the clinic next week we're going to wipe out entire fields that pave the way for understanding how humans and their diseases even work. As was pointed out in the discussion, there is virtually no disease treatment that did not go through an animal system before being applied to humans. Yes, part of that has to do with FDA regulations, but the MAIN reason is because many model organisms are tractable in ways that humans aren't. Some discoveries don't translate to humans, but so what? Most clinically relevant innovation wouldn't have been worked out in a human system to begin with. Our generation times aren't exactly good for a research model and there are apparently some issues with knock-out studies, I hear.
When times get tight everyone wants to justify the solution that best suits their particular goals, but some proposals are more blatantly self-serving and egregiously arrogant than others.
* Mostly because clinical people aren't aware other science happens.