What causes autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? We're not sure.

How many different types of ASD exist? Good question. 

How many treatments are available for ASD? Not enough. 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is taking this lack of understanding seriously. In case anyone doubts this, the NIH put its money where its mouth is last week when the agency announced the awarding of nine research grants totaling almost $100 million, over the next five years. This is roughly ten times more than the average research grant given to a researcher. 

These grants are part of the Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) program - created a decade ago to support research projects that aim to understand autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The Centers for Disease Control and...

The World Health Organization (WHO) is one of the finest institutions on the planet. Its accomplishments are far too numerous to list here, but its most famous is the effort it led to eradicate smallpox from the face of the planet. It is not an exaggeration to say that the WHO's missions have saved hundreds of millions of lives.

Because of such successes, something like a halo surrounds whatever the WHO chooses to do. But that's not healthy. No matter how well-meaning and righteous an organization is, it requires oversight. Without it, mismanagement and even corruption can creep in. 

According to the ...

Because of the replication problems facing biomedical science and psychology, much attention in recent years has focused on scientific integrity. How can scientists ensure that the data they are publishing is accurate and reliable?

A new report that partially addresses that issue has been released by the National Academies. It was reviewed by Physics Today, which said that, among other things, the report "advocates stricter policies for scientific authorship attribution, increased openness in scientific work, [and] the reporting of negative findings." These recommendations are fine, but...

Scientific research is not cheap. Conducting experiments requires people, reagents, technology and a lot of very expensive equipment.

The funding for science can come from two sources, private funds (from companies and foundations) or public funds, which can come from a number of different government agencies. 

In general, companies focus on specific goals, such as drug design or vaccine development, for specific diseases. Therefore, deciding which projects get funded is typically not determined by the people running the experiments in the private sector (there are exceptions to this, of course.) 

In the arena of public funding - the source of financial resources for the majority of academic science - the system works very differently. Because there are more ideas...