Each year, the U. S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) alone spends over $30 billion on medical research. The people who decide which scientists get this money are, unsurprisingly, scientists. Daniel Sarewitz, a professor of science and society at Arizona State University, thinks that we are no longer getting the bangs we should get for all these bucks. In an article in the spring/summer 2016 issue of The New Atlantis, he explains why.
These are indicators of a general trend or pattern that goes something like this. A newly minted Ph. D. in one of the softer sciences (economics, sociology, psychology, biology) gets an academic job and has to produce new and original results that are published in peer-reviewed journals or get fired in five or six years. (That part I'm very familiar with.) So he writes tons of proposals to NIH or wherever he can get funding, gets ten to fifteen percent of his proposals funded, and sets to work being novel. Novel about what? Well, that almost doesn't matter. As long as you can show you did something that nobody's done before, and it has some remote tenuous connection with reality, you can find a journal and willing referees to publish it. There's more Internet-based journals popping up every year, and it's almost to the point that you can get anything published if you send it to enough journals. Multiply this picture by the thousands of Ph. D.'s we produce every year, and bear in mind that their proposals and papers are being reviewed by people who went through the very same system, and you can see how the situation described by Sarewitz can happen.