When basic research is made to seem silly in public discourse, and when its usefulness is questioned during key points in federal budget cycles, scientists should not yield to the bullying. We should instead educate the public about how scientific knowledge actually grows. Not everything worthwhile can be justified by its market value; what is most meaningful may have no apparent practical impact. Yet we can be sure that human imagination will find applications for knowledge, if we are allowed to develop that knowledge in the first place.
The task of translational research is not unlike the act of translating a book from one language into another. Fluency in both languages is a given; beyond that, there must be a talent, a feel, for those concepts unique to one language or culture that cannot be directly translated but must somehow still be conveyed. The challenge in translational medicine is that scientists are trying to translate a text with the sophistication and depth of Shakespeare using a first-grader’s vocabulary and experience, because our knowledge about the functions of most pathways in various cell types, during different developmental stages, and under normal physiological conditions, is still rudimentary and piecemeal.Advertisements