WASHINGTON—A National Science Foundation proposal to spend $50 million next year on up to 20 science and technology centers, touted by Director Erich Bloch as a partial solution to the country's economic problems, is actually an untested idea that has raised numerous questions among the scientific community.

NSF is supporting three separate efforts, one in-house, to help it decide how to create, operate and evaluate such basic research facilities. Congress has already heard Xestimony from representatives of several major scientific organizations on the need to move slowly and carefully.

Chief among their concerns are:

  • Which fields are most likely to profit from such multidisciplinary collaboration? Should there be a balance between the number of centers pursuing more applied work and those doing more basic research? Are centers inappropriate for some disciplines?
  • Will the centers alter the traditional relationship between graduate student and professor and change the way in which young...

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