keeping it honest

I am off 2 minds about what it means to keep researchers honest when it comes to disease-related research. On the one hand, I do think advocates should hold researchers’ feet to the fire.    If you say you are trying to cure disease X then your work should be clearly connected to curing disease X.   I have a personal rule of thumb I use for calculating “connected” — you get 2 or 3 “ifs” and 1 or 2 “buts.”    As soon as I hear a string of “if, if, if, but, if, if, but, if then maybe, but…” I know this is not feet to the fire applied research. So what’s on my other hand?   I am increasingly of the mind that demanding basic researchers to link their work to diseases (courtesy of the NIH culture) or broader impacts (thanks to NSF) has done much more harm than good. It has distorted what gets done and why.   It has created an illusion of knowledge where there is really a gaping hole.   it has squandered funds and the hard work of many smart people with good intentions. My remedy: let’s keep it honest.    If you are dedicated to helping develop effective treatments for some disease – do it and do it well.    If you really want to pursue interesting biology just because – do it and do it well.   But please, lets stop doing uninteresting biology that is unlikely to be of any use to anyone.