Highlighted Selections from:

Opportunities for Philanthropy Aiming to Improve Science Policy


Alberts, Dr. Bruce. Interview with GiveWell and Good Ventures. "Opportunities for Philanthropy Aiming to Improve Science Policy." GiveWell (2014). 1-5. http://files.givewell.org/files/conversations/Alberts%201-29-14%20(public).pdf

Dr. Bruce Alberts — Professor of Biochemistry, University of California, San Francisco; former President, National Academy of Sciences.

p.1: GiveWell and Good Ventures spoke to Dr. Alberts to learn more about opportunities for philanthropy aiming to improve science policy. Conversation topics included funding and incentives for scientific research, evaluation standards for researchers, science education standards, and engaging scientists in policy. -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014

p.1: The current funding system for scientific research is biased toward supporting short-term, translational research (research that looks for practical applications of basic science). -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014

p.1: NIH has the ability to change researchers’ incentives. It has been overfunding translational research for a long time, in part because of pressure from outside groups, such as Congress and disease-specific organizations, that are not well informed about how severely our current lack of understanding inhibits advances in health research. -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014

p.2: NIH is in need of major reforms, but it is a large organization that is difficult to change. It has historically demonstrated a lack of interest in an independent outside review of its programs by organizations like the National Academies (NAS, IOM, NAE, NRC). NIH could fund the National Academies to carry out a major review of NIH once every five years. To conduct an adequate review, the NAS would need access to all of the data, such as the distribution of NIH grants (i.e. detailed analyses of the number of researchers that have received different numbers and types of grants). NIH data can be difficult to interpret, and in the past some of the data that NIH has released publicly has included misleading information. -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014

p.4: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellowship Program funds young scientists and engineers to do a year of policy work in US government positions, such as being staff on Congressional committees. AAAS now provides more than 200 such positions every year. Half of AAAS fellows choose to continue working in policy after the fellowship. The presence of AAAS fellows in Washington has a large impact on the amount of attention paid to science. -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014