Horizonte perdido

En la película "Groundhog Day", Bill Murray hace el papel de un desventurado meteorólogo de un canal de TV que parece estar condenado a vivir el mismo día una y otra vez. El proceso de justificar las investigaciones básicas de largo plazo en las ciencias vitales frecuentemente parece un ciclo repetitivo de ese tipo.

Se presenta el caso, se reúnen las evidencias, algunos proyectos pueden salvarse, pero a la mañana siguiente nos encontramos con que las políticas y las iniciativas continúan su inexorable marcha hacia metas que son de corto plazo y prácticas. No es que eso tenga nada de malo, pero no es de ahí de donde surgen los grandes descubrimientos científicos, ni de donde se obtiene la mejor relación costo-beneficio. La ironía es que ahora que el financiamiento federal y privado para las ciencias se encuentra en el nivel más alto de la historia y que hay un número sin precedente de investigadores trabajando en los laboratorios, hay una contracción de las actividades de investigación y una reducción del horizonte de tiempo.

En 1970, cuando la investigación en las ciencias vitales era una actividad relativamente pequeña en comparación con los patrones actuales, el renombrado cardiólogo Julius Comroe, a fin de obtener apoyo para la investigación básica, presentó ante el Congreso de los EU una encuesta estadística imparcial sobre grandes descubrimientos médicos. Tomó los 10 mayores adelantos médicos de las tres décadas previas, elegidos por un panel de 70 clínicos y un número igual de científicos, ingenieros y administradores.

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