Big Science More Important Than Ever

Executive Dean Marschall Runge argues in this opinion piece on the Huffington Post that while expensive and time-consuming, big science leads to dramatically improved health outcomes all over the world. He uses the HPTN052 study, led by UNC's Myron Cohen, as an example of effective big science.

Big Science More Important Than Ever click to enlarge Marschall S. Runge, MD, PhD

Alvin M. Weinberg introduced the term "big science" into the national lexicon in 1961. Big science is research that requires the coordination of massive resources, including thousands of our best minds and cutting-edge technologies to solve massive, complex problems.

With visionary gusto, Weinberg wrote that "the monuments of big science, the huge rockets, the high-energy accelerators, the high-flux research reactors ... will be symbols of our time as surely as Notre Dame is a symbol of the Middle Ages."

The concept of big science is especially timely in a highly charged political environment with the debate focused on the Affordable Care Act, streamlining services and controlling costs. As a result, vital research often gets short shrift.

Big science is expensive and time-consuming, but the results can have exponential benefits: the potential for dramatically improved health outcomes throughout the world.

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