An Exploratory Study of Science Resource Allocation

by Stephen M. Barro

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An exploration of the feasibility of using analytical techniques to assist in allocating Federal funds for scientific research at the university "little science" level. A survey of allocation problems and data availability in the selected pilot field of chemistry indicates that available data of individual basic research projects could be reclassified to provide more useful aggregative information. A survey of the literature on Federal science policy, scientific choice, and the economics of research points to deficiencies in allocation concepts and criteria. Measures that may contribute to improved decisionmaking at the individual project level include the use of procedures to take cost into account in selecting proposals, explicit weighting of research criteria, and systematic procedures for reaching consensus decisions, such as the Delphi Technique. At the interfield level, a planning-programming-budgeting approach can provide for the explicit comparison of alternatives, for qualitative statements on the value of marginal research at various levels of support, and for a hierarchical allocation system. If the National Science Foundation is to act as a balance wheel in the allocation of government-wide support of science research, as the literature indicates, a more comprehensive, flexible, and consistent information system is needed.

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