Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, has been distributing a chart that shows the success rate of grant applications to NIH for scientific research. While the rate was about 30 percent as recently as a decade ago, it has plunged to about 15 percent, which Dr. Collins says is the lowest in history.
One reason for this is that more applicants are seeking funds, but the budget squeeze also is to blame. Dr. Collins is worried that the low success rate will cause young scientists and researchers to abandon the laboratory for other careers or to take their talents and ideas to other countries.
NIH is the source of about 90 percent of basic research funding in biomedicine in the United States, and the field today is exciting and dynamic: Advances in genomics and imaging technologies are throwing open new worlds of exploration and promising vastly greater understanding of how diseases occur and can be treated.