The Future of Legislation

Last Saturday's (April 12, 1980) Washington Post carried the latest in its series of articles on the relationship between Congress and the National Institute of Health. The theme of that particular story was in part the question whether the NIH grant system is flexible enough to support and reward scientific innovation of the kind that will lead to substative biomedical breakthroughs. The Post feature focused on the difficulties faced by nonscientist legislators attempting to assess the efficacy of sophisticated technical proposals. Ward Sinclair, the author of the story, posed the question: "How, for example, is a man like Bob Michel who has spent most of his adult life in Congress, supposed to know the merit of studying the stereochemistry in valine and leucine metabolism?" (the actual title of a proposed grant). To many of you who have devoted your lives to science and scientific research these terms have real meaning and their use is a part of everyday language. But in the halls of Congress, you will find very few members who used the scientific laboratory as a springboard to public office.

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