Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH
A major part of NIH’s mission is to support basic research that generates fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems. Such knowledge serves as the foundation for the biomedical advances needed to protect and improve our health—and the health of generations to come.
Of course, it’s often hard to predict how this kind of basic research might benefit human populations, and the lag time between discovery and medical application (if that happens at all) can be quite long. Some might argue, therefore, that basic research is not a good use of funds, and all of NIH’s support should go to specific disease targets.
To counter that perception, I’m pleased to share some new findings that underscore the importance of publicly supported basic research. In an analysis of more than 28 million papers in the PubMed.gov database, researchers found NIH contributed to published research that was associated with every single one of the 210 new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration from 2010 through 2016 . More than 90 percent of that contributory research was basic—that is, related to the discovery of fundamental biological mechanisms, rather than actual development of the drugs themselves.
Today’s scientists find it tough to keep up with all of the latest journal articles, innovative methods, and interesting projects of colleagues in their fields. That’s understandable, because there are tens of thousands of journals, hundreds of conferences in major fields, dozens of emerging technologies, and huge geographic distances separating researchers who may share common interests. But science is increasingly a team sport—and it’s important to provide scientists with as many avenues as possible through which to interact, including commenting on each other’s work.
To encourage such exchanges, NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) recently developed PubMed Commons, a resource that gives researchers the opportunity to engage in online discussions about scientific publications 24/7. Specifically, this service allows scientists with at least one publication to comment on any paper in PubMed—the world’s largest searchable database of biomedical literature, with more than 3 million full-text articles and 24 million citations.
You don’t need to be a researcher to enjoy keeping up with the latest discoveries in biomedical research, and now there’s a great new tool to help you.
In case you didn’t know, PubMed Central is a free archive of biomedical and life science journal literature at the NIH’s National Library of Medicine. PubMed Central provides electronic access to that journal collection—more than 2.6 million scientific articles and counting. And, anyone can use it. In fact, PubMed Central is a hot site—700,000 individuals visit it everyday to take advantage of this great knowledge base.
But until today reading the E-version of these articles has been a bit of a drag. Poring over scientific articles on a laptop, tablet, or even your phone involved patiently scrolling up and down the columns, keeping your place, and being able flip back and forth to find tables, figures, and references.