Prompted by these remarks, Robert Lees, a program manager at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences who oversees synthetic organic chemistry grants, commented that several of the speakers so far felt the need to defend the field of organic chemistry and asked, “Where is this feeling that you’re under attack coming from?”
Lees wondered if the feeling of threat stems from worries about funding for organic research. From his perspective at NIGMS, he said that synthesis isn’t facing any more stress than other scientific disciplines and that he hopes that chemistry students aren’t going to other areas out of fear of a lack of funding opportunities.
Kozlowski responded by reiterating her sentiments about the need for organic research and stressed to the student attendees, “I think there’s miles of open space.”
Although Baran wasn’t present for the exchange, he told C&EN that he disagrees with Lees and emphasized that there aren’t nearly as many institutions funding pure synthesis as there are institutions funding fields like biology.This is not the only time that Professor Baran has expressed sentiments that chemistry is disproportionately underfunded (my words, not his) compared to other fields. Here, you have a subject matter expert (Robert Lees) who disagrees with him.
I guess that we need a historical comparison of both NIH and NSF funding for basic molecular biology compared to synthetic organic chemistry in order to falsify the Baran hypothesis - I wonder if it is even possible to put this data together?