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been stagnant in recent years (see Figure R&D-4). Recently, the FS&T budget has been declining since the charge to double NIH funding has been completed (see Figure R&D-5). Recent Department of Defense (DOD) budgets offer another example—ever the last decade, the resources provided for basic research by the DOD have declined substantially.8 Recent trends show that while defense R&D budgets have been increasing overall, the amount of resources allocated to science research in DOD is decreasing (see Figures R&D-6A and B). This lack of support for basic research could have major consequences for the development of necessary future military capabilities.

Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology also recommended that:

  • R&D conducted in federal laboratories focus on the objectives of the sponsoring agency and not expand beyond the assigned missions of the laboratories. The size and activities of each laboratory should correspond to changes in mission requirements.

  • FS&T funding generally favor academic institutions because of their flexibility and inherent quality control and because they link research to education and training in science and engineering.

  • FS&T budget decisions give preference to funding projects and people rather than institutions. That approach will increase the flexibility in responding to new opportunities and changing conditions.

  • Competitive merit review, especially that involving external reviewers, be the preferred way to make awards, because competition for funding is vital to maintain the high quality of FS&T programs.

  • Evaluations of R&D programs and of those performing and sponsoring the work also incorporate the views of outside evaluators.

  • R&D be well managed and accountable but not micromanaged or hobbled by rules and regulations that have little social benefit.

Diversity cannot be an excuse for mediocrity. People, projects, and institutions need to be reviewed to ensure that they are meeting national needs in science and technology. Open competition involving evaluation of merit by peers is the best-known mechanism to maintain support for the highest-quality projects and people. Quality also can be maintained by knowledgeable program managers who have established external scientific and technical advisory groups to help assess quality and to help monitor whether agency needs are being met.

Possible actions for the federal government to maintain the diversity


National Research Council, Committee on Department of Defense Basic Research. Assessment of Department of Defense Basic Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2005.

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