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nature of basic research, there is no sensible way to respond to the GPRA annual measurement requirement and that the best that can be done is to provide measures that appear to respond but in fact are essentially meaningless, such as a list of an agency's top 100 discoveries of the preceding year.
COSEPUP's view, spelled out in more detail in what follows, is different from both those viewpoints. In essence, our report takes two strong positions. First, the useful outcomes of basic research cannot be measured directly on an annual basis, because the usefulness of new basic knowledge is inherently too unpredictable; so the usefulness of basic research must be measured by historical reviews based on a much longer timeframe. Second, that does not mean that there are no meaningful measures of performance of basic research while the research is in progress; in fact, the committee believes that there are meaningful measures of quality, relevance, and leadership that are good predictors of eventual usefulness, that these measures can be reported regularly, and that they represent a sound way to ensure that the country is getting a good return on its basic research investment.
The problem of reporting on applied research is much simpler: it consists of systematically applying methods widely used in industry and in some parts of government. For example, an applied research program usually includes a series of milestones that should be achieved by particular times and a description of the intended final outcomes and their significance. Periodic reporting can indicate progress toward those milestones.
The remainder of this executive summary provides a more in-depth description of COSEPUP's conclusions and recommendations regarding how to evaluate federal research programs relative to GPRA. It also addresses coordination among federal research programs and human-resource issues. COSEPUP concludes that both basic research and applied research programs1 can be meaningfully evaluated on a regular basis. For the applied research programs of the mission agencies, specific practical outcomes can be