How targeted should research and higher education be?

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The education and research system in the biomedical sciences is tremendously vital. But the scientific community must exert more leadership if this vitality is to continue, for both science education and research are prone to a common villain: inertia. For example, in the education arena, why do medical schools require two semesters of organic chemistry but no cell biology, when the center of biomedical research has shifted to cell biology? And why do so many graduate schools continue to send a strong message to their science students that there is only one really successful career path–the one leading to academia–when most of our PhD students cannot expect to become professors? Inertia in research can be seen in the trend for cell biologists to train researchers just like themselves, which means that the many opportunities to use new cell biological techniques to address important problems in tissue biology are likely to be missed. A solution to such problems is to design funding mechanisms that promote more adventuresome research. As a bottom line, our research system must support the independence of our best young scientists and encourage them to take the risks inherent in highly creative endeavors.

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