Edited by Dominique Foray
Chapter 7: Critical Episodes in the Progress of Medical Innovation
7. Critical episodes in the progress of medical innovation Nathan Rosenberg US PERSPECTIVES ON THE LIFE SCIENCES 7.1 There seems to be widespread agreement in the United States that the twenty-first century will be dominated by the so-called ‘life sciences’. Indeed, if one examines the contribution of federal monies to research budgets, broken down by academic disciplines (Figure 7.1), it is easy to draw the conclusion that the transition to the life sciences has already been completed. Obviously, I have no crystal ball, but we all have access to data for the past 40 years or so, and the trend is perfectly unambiguous. If we turn to a more detailed breakdown of research and development (R&D) expenditure at academic institutions for a single year (2001) there may be some surprises (Table 7.1). The surprises that I have in mind (at least to someone who has never looked at a detailed breakdown of R&D expenditure at US universities) is that the physical sciences amounted to less than 9 percent of the total for the year 2001 (8.6 percent). On the other hand, the life sciences for the same year were approaching 60 percent of the total (58.6 percent). If we look at the components of the life sciences it appears that the medical sciences alone account for more than 30 percent of the total (31.1 percent). I do not know how many readers will be surprised by these numbers, but I can only report to you that, when I...
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