Some of history’s major scientific and technological breakthroughs started as research projects with little promise of bearing fruit, but funding for “high risk, high reward” research has always been difficult to secure. In an economic downturn, finding money for these projects is likely to be even more challenging. . . .
The problem, however, is that researchers seldom have the freedom to pursue big ideas that don’t fit neatly into grant proposals for the National Institutes of Health or other funding agencies, panelists told the subcommittee. Moreover, they often lack funding to investigate whether the germ of a big idea has promise. The well-known mantra for researchers, therefore, is “don’t put it in your grant proposal unless you know it will work,” said [Neal] Lane, former director of the National Science Foundation.
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