This shift might result from scientists finding disease-focused research increasingly compelling and disease models and tools increasingly accessible. Disease-focused studies may also be a logical extension of the fundamental research questions they had been pursuing. This shift, however, might also be due to investigators believing that NINDS is no longer interested in supporting research into the normal function of the brain and nervous system. This is not the case at all.
While I believe it is critically important that we find ways to accelerate translation of discoveries into new treatments, I am concerned that basic research is disappearing from our portfolio. Fundamental research is not funded in any substantial way by other sources, and a lack of basic knowledge can stand in the way of progress across all of neuroscience. There is no magic formula for achieving the “right” balance between basic and disease-focused research, but if the recent decline continues unabated, in 10 years or so, we might not have any fundamental basic research left in our portfolio.
I want to encourage investigators to engage in curiosity-driven science, both basic and disease-focused, and assure them that NINDS is eager to support excellent research wherever their curiosity takes them. I have posted this analysis in detail as my first blog post to get your thoughts and feedback. I look forward to hearing from you on this topic.
Last updated October 16, 2014