US shuns big scientific projects

Published: Sunday 15 August 1993

POLITICAL support for expensive scientific projects, plagued as they are by cost overruns, is dwindling in the US because with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the defence applications of space research are now less urgent.

Besides, US scientists have suggested -- for the first time in modern memory -- that an increase in federal funding is not necessary for the country to remain ahead of the world in scientific research. A committee of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering suggested various fields of science be rated to determine how the available funds should be spent. They said some fields might take less money to help others expand.

Congressional appropriations for scientific research has declined from 5.2 per cent of the federal budget 25 years ago to 1.7 per cent this year. The change in attitude is exemplified in the House of Representatives' vote, in June, to abandon the superconducting super collider project.

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