Young, Brilliant and Underfunded
By Andy Harris (The New York Times) WASHINGTON — EVERY year the National Institutes of Health receives almost $30 billion in federal funds to invest in biomedical research. The bulk of that money goes to researchers who are in many cases esteemed in their fields — but also, in many cases, beyond the age when most scientists make their most important contributions to their fields.
A study for the National Bureau of Economic Research from 2005 examined the age at which over 2,000 Nobel Prize winners and other notable scientists in the 20th century came up with the idea that led to their breakthrough. Most were between 35 and 39. Yet the median age of first-time recipients of R01 grants, the most common and sought-after form of N.I.H. funding, is 42, while the median age of all recipients is 52. More people over 65 are funded with research grants than those under age 35.