October 2013

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Letter to the Editor

Cover of ASBMB report: Unlimited Potential, Vanishing OpportunityI recently read the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology-sponsored Nondefense Discretionary Science Survey after hearing about it from news outlets, and I wanted to congratulate the ASBMB for doing its part to bring this issue to light. Even as an M.D.-Ph.D. student who can fall back on a clinical career, the precipitous fall of research support has been disheartening to the extreme. Bleak messages are showing up in news outlets pretty regularly now, and it’s disappointing to know that our society appears unwilling to back our careers. Most graduate students, in my experience, got into the field of biomedical research out of a desire to help humanity. All we are asking for is the opportunity to do work that ultimately will lessen human suffering, but the general impression from the public is that this work is not a priority. As the survey points out, the government already is making a sizable investment to train us, but trained personnel are of no use to the common good if we cannot be paid to do the work that we’re trained for. I fear that we are going to lose the next generation of scientists as a result of this climate. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend a research career to the undergraduates who approach me without warning them of the bleak outlook and urging them to consider other opportunities first. I work at a major research university, and I find that the very people I would call role models — tenured and university distinguished professors — struggle to stay afloat. How am I to have any faith in the future of our profession when even the strongest among us are brought to the brink of failure?
Cody Weston, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine

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