FYI

[Neuroscientist and Nobel laureate Eric R.] Kandel, a professor at Columbia University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, was in Southern California for the recent Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego and the Leo Rangell Lecture at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, where he is a visiting scholar. He sat down to talk about his books, his work and the state of neuroscience…

Q: Is there anything being lost in the effort to map the brain, as proposed by the Obama administration?
A: There was a worry in the beginning, when terms like this were being thrown around loosely … but early on, Francis Collins and the leadership of [the National Institutes of Health] had the sense to call around, and they put together an extraordinary science advisory board … and to a person this is first-rate. They’re really studying the problem. … I think it could have a major impact. The problem is there’s no money. The amounts of money that Obama’s thinking about just don’t come close to approaching what needs to be done. And the worry is that some of those funds that will be used will be taken away from ongoing research efforts. Never in my life has the ongoing research effort suffered as much as it is suffering now. It’s a terrible time out there. What needs to be done besides the Obama funding, is just general funding for science.

Q: Is the problem from the sequester, or politics in general in Washington?
A: Since the [NIH Director Harold E.] Varmus era (1993-1999), there has been an enormous decline in the funds available. … People can’t get jobs. If they can get a job, they can’t get funding. It’s a very, very difficult situation out there. When I came along, if you could read and write in science, you were supported — if you were at all decent. Now it’s very hard. Good people are not getting supported. … It’s a tragedy to have such good people not have optimal jobs that they want…

Full interview at www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-qa-kandel-biology-of-mind-20131117,0,1045025.story

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