A poll of 244 U.S. colleges and universities revealed that the schools are planning to spend what might appear to be a huge amount of money—$777 million—this year on the repair and renovation of scientific and engineering research space. But, according to a recent NSF report, that whopping sum amounts to barely a third of what the schools say they need.

About 39% of R&D space in the schools needs repair or renovation if it is to be used effectively, says the NSF report Those schools plan projects for 1988 and 1989 that will fix about 9% of that space, but have no plans yet for the other 30%. That 9% looks especially inadequate compared to the survey’s finding that 16% of current R&D space needs not just “limited” repair but “major” work.

The negative effects of cramped or old-fashioned labs mentioned most often in NSF’s survey were problems with...

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