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Book and Media Reviews
September 15, 2010

The National Institutes of Health: 1991-2008

JAMA. 2010;304(11):1243-1245. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1355

Few institutions have been more important to the development of medical science and medical education in the United States than the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Yet the structure, function, finances, and politics of this institution are difficult to appreciate, even for persons directly involved in medical research and education. While not a comprehensive study, The National Institutes of Health: 1991-2008 provides a concise yet thorough description of the recent history of the NIH for a general readership. Through 222 interviews with key individuals involved in biomedical research, from fellows and junior investigators to senior scientists and leaders, John Kastor relays a vast array of perspectives and skillfully integrates them to create a nuanced and even-handed narrative of this complex organization over the last 2 decades. Of particular novelty and value, Kastor does not shy away from opposing or critical views, and he challenges readers to understand the role of money and politics in setting agendas for science and research.

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