AMSTERDAM—The Dutch government is moving toward a system of funding large research institutions by supporting a limited number of broadly defined goals rather than by issuing grants to thousands of individual investigators. The change is expected to give the institutions greater independence to allocate funds and make the process more responsive both to the needs of the scientific community and to national priorities.

The current system encourages conflict between scientists and government bureaucrats over individual allocations, said E. van Spiegel, director-general of the Division of Science Policy in the Ministry of Education and Science.

"The civil servant has the opportunity—often the duty—to occupy himself with details," said Spiegel. "Travel expenses, for example, may be an insignificant part of the total budget. But they can cause enormous fights within an organization about whether each professor has been given his proper share."

Under the new system, the government sets broad goals and...

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