While the Soviet Union and China seem to be warming up to capitalism's style of doing business, a group of U.S. scientists is, in a sense, going in the opposite direction - pioneering a new social environment for research that might best be described as "scientific collectivism." Indeed, the team of 60-plus scientists running the X-11A X-ray beam line at Brookhaven National Laboratory's National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), Upton, N.Y., describe themselves as "communal, even socialist" in style.

The group's principal investigator, Dale Sayers, referring to himself as the team's "spokesperson and nominal leader," says he guides the group as a facilitator, rather than a scientific autocrat.

Known casually as the "Sayers-PRT" (for Sayers, of North Carolina State University and Participating Research Team, the term used to describe NSLS collaborations), the team, well-known in synchrotron research circles for its work in superconductivity, functions as a collection of equals. "A committee...

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