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Painful prospects for academic R&D.

The Cold War's end warrants a reexamination of the nation's research and development (R&D) system - especially in light of today's slow economy, says White House science adviser D. Allan Bromley. Two groups have already offered assessments of the long-term prospects for the nation's 170 or so "research-intensive" universities. Their reports, released Christmas week, conclude that these and other research institutions face "painful decisions" if they hope to enter the next century robustly

For instance, the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST), a panel of experts largely from outside government, notes that because "we do not expect that the expansive days of the 1960s and of the early 1980s will be characteristic of the next decade ... [research universities should exhibit] a sharp preference for quality over quantity." In simple terms, this means that many should consider "eliminating or downsizing departments rather than sustaining less than world-class quality," says Harold Shapiro, Princeton University's president and PCAST's vice-chairman. Indeed, the PCAST study argues against expanding the academic research system - at least not until the US. economy improves dramatically

Among other controversial recommendations, PCAST suggests that many basic-research projects currently earmarked for national labs should in the future be open to competitive proposals from universities and industry Bromley, who returns to Yale University following Clinton's inauguration, offered Science News his own favorite recommendation: the development of a perhaps $4 billion competitive grants program to finance the modernization of existing academic research facilities over the next five to 10 years.

A new report of the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology (FCCSET) largely supports PCAST's findings and recommendations. However, as one might expect of a document drafted by representatives of 18 federal agencies, FCCSET's suggestions were worded much more vaguely.
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Title Annotation:President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology report; research and development
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 9, 1993
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