Strategies in Funding Scientific Research

Scientists believe that 65.5 million years ago, an asteroid triggered the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

Some scientists also refer to a second “asteroid strike” – a period in the 1990’s when NIH funding virtually disappeared, triggering the extinction of countless research projects.

Dr. Steven Wiley, an expert in systems biology, describes this second “extinction” in a recent column in The Scientist. He ascribes his personal survival to two basic strategies:

Adaptation: Once Wiley determined that the NIH was not funding any projects in his field of research, he looked for other sources of funding (e.g., NSF or DOD) and adapted his research to the sources available.

Hardiness: Despite the dearth of fundin, Wiley continued his research, using whatever resources he could muster. He volunteered at a company in exchange for access to lab equipment and supplies; and he partnered with other scientists to work on projects that had received funding.

The story he tells and the techniques he uses are no different than that of countless businesses and entrepreneurs. What is interesting is that these simple strategies apply not just to business but to the scientific community as well.

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