WASHINGTON—Federal research administrators have reacted coolly to suggestions from the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment that their agencies become more active in support of programs to preserve biological diversity.

In a lengthy report released in late March, OTA pressed Congress to increase funding to existing programs that foster or protect biological diversity, such as the Endangered Species Program and the National Plant Germplasm System. In addition, OTA proposed a specific niche for conservation biology within the National Science Foundation, cautioning in the same breath that NSF would probably argue that it conflicted with its mission as the nation's funder of basic research.

OTA correctly predicted resistance, but for the wrong reason. Frank Harris, NSF's deputy director of Biotic Systems and Resources, said the Foundation is already funding 90 percent of the research that falls under the loosely defined term "conservation biology." A separate program with sheltered money, he said, would...

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