More important than just the money, however, is that private-sector foundations can afford to fund more high-risk, high-return research without the badgering and bickering that too often comes from Congress.
Launched with approximately $100 million in initial funding, BRAIN is a high-risk, high-reward effort that will provide basic but significant research insights in neuroscience and will have a major applied impact on health and human well-being far into the future.
Real progress comes from young renegades thinking outside the box willing to take risks to challenge the status quo. It is this kind of science that gets lost in the shuffle every time the giant pork machine dispenses its largesse to the usual suspects.
The science enterprise of the country -- the sweeping investments in research that has powered the U.S. economy for much of the last 60 years -- is seriously threatened by the havoc that sequestration could bring.
Protecting healthy soil and water resources and reclaiming abused and contaminated resources are essential to ensuring that millions of people alive today, as well as millions yet unborn, will have enough to eat throughout this century. This is not a far-off problem.
Right away, everyone wants to know what's to be cut. Whatever you all settle on cutting, it should not be science. Investment in science is investment in innovation. New ideas are what keep the U.S. economy driving forward.
Think about this for a moment: Many baseball players make more than is awarded by a program in the National Science Foundation that gives us the tools and understanding to manage some of humanities' biggest ecological and environmental issues.
While we need to celebrate the success stories in medical research that allow us to carry on our lives, we have more work to do. We must ensure that we continue to have a robust flow of scientific discoveries that we can then translate into better health.
Absent a commitment by our government to the direct support of basic biomedical research, our country will be unable to inspire young people to choose science as a career and will lose the ideas those young people could bring to future discovery.
The pattern of polarizing rhetoric and inability to compromise is sure to continue. However, both Democratic and Republican voters should insist their leaders act and agree to maintain funding for scientific research and development.
Biology is an intrinsically artisan discipline: it looks like a crazy quilt of intricately interwoven threads (take a look at the diagram of any biological pathway and you get the picture, let alone how things translate across scales).
In spite of the great benefits of the U.S.'s long-standing commitment to basic science research and the breakthroughs it has enabled, Congress stands poised to undermine this cornerstone of American economic competitiveness.