If you're a cancer researcher, it's harder to get money to investigate a potentially field-changing question than to find out whether a food's tastiness affects dieting. The reason is simple but problematic: With limited funding available and lots of research to do, grant-givers don't want to lose money on a long shot, writes the New York Times.
But the risky studies often lead to breakthroughs, like the drug that has saved the lives of women with particularly aggressive breast cancer. Its discoverer had to turn to a cosmetics company for money because his official grant proposal was rejected. The projects that are funded "are not silly, but they are only likely to produce incremental progress," a scientist explains.