"Basic research only" has become a battle cry for those who would like to slash funding for federal scientific research and development programs. But following that war path would be a serious misstep if the goal is-as it should be-to get an effective return on the federal scientific investment. In fact, federal support for the development part of R&D is already woefully insufficient to ensure that the benefits of research advances are fully realized.

Basic research is just the first leg on the journey to the marketplace for new technologies. For many projects, that basic research is federally funded and motivated by societal goals such as promoting health, environmental quality, and safety. The final leg of inserting the technology into product manufacturing processes is privately funded and motivated by customer demand and profit motives. In between, however, is an inadequate mix of public and private funding. Those middle stages of...

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