WASHINGTON--The National Science Foundation can't see what's on the horizon in science. The federal government doesn't know what the supercollider will ultimately cost. And nobody has a clue how to balance competing demands for scarce science dollars.

On February 20, Congress learned those things and more as it took a five-hour stab at setting science policy. The occasion was back-to-back hearings on the president's proposed science budget for 1992, involving first a portion, and then the whole, of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

It's not easy for legislators to dissect how the government proposes to spend the $13 billion that has been requested for basic research, much less the $75 billion on research and development across all agencies. So for the past eight years the House science committee has invited the president's science adviser to present his views on the subject and to field questions from the panel....

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