WASHINGTON—The National Science Foundation is considering a major policy change that would limit its payment of salaries to university researchers. The controversial idea, still under discussion, would bar the 20,000 senior investigators the foundation supports each year from receiving any more than summer salaries in their grants.

NSF now spends $200 million annually, roughly 12% of its total research budget, on salaries to senior scientists. More than half of that amount gces to provide salaries for all or part of the academic year.

Dropping funds for academic-year salaries would free up scarce funds to support graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, say advocates of the change, which was discussed at last month’s meeting of the National Science Board, the foundation’s governing body. Such a policy, they note, would also send a message to universities that research is an integral part of many faculty members’ jobs and deserves to be supported to...

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