Gerald Rubin: Science far too conservative

April 20, 2006

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Director Gerald Rubin says academic and industrial research models have become far too conservative.

Rubin, an internationally recognized geneticist, was selected in 2003 to become the first director of HHMI's Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Va., near Washington.

With the opening of Janelia Farm this October, Rubin will head HHMI's efforts to shift what he deems is the conservative bent in academic research centers by providing an environment in which scientists can pursue long-term, creative, high-risk research.

Rubin believes traditional academic environments can be too restrictive, in part because external funding forces scientists to define their research programs in advance when they apply for grants.

By initially setting the course of a research plan, Rubin says scientists are limited in their ability to pursue questions and opportunities that arise during the research.

"The bulk of the scientific community is limited to projects that can be funded by peer-review committees, which tend to be very conservative," he said. "It makes it very difficult for people to take on high-risk, high-reward projects."

Rubin presents his viewpoints in the April issue of the journal Cell.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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