While the agency's halt to `downward negotiations' may promote fairness, it fails to brighten overall research support vistas

WASHINGTON--The National Institutes of Health has officially ended its highly unpopular practice of applying unilateral, across-the-board cuts to the grants of those researchers it funds. But most scientists will find that the varying approaches adopted by individual institutes to replace what were euphemistically called "downward negotiations" do not yield any more money for their research.

"We have begun to do away with across-the-board cuts," John Diggs, NIH deputy director for extramural research, told the House appropriations committee's labor and health and human services subcommittee last month at hearings on the agency's 1992 proposed budget. "Instead, we're examining specific categories of cuts, to determine whether they are reasonable and allowable."

The dramatic shakeups that businesses undertake to solve problems aren't an option for the federal government, in which political considerations can sometimes stifle...

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