WASHINGTON, DC—The National Science Foundation (NSF) should produce a “roadmap” to establish priorities for large-scale research facility projects it wishes to construct over the next 10 to 20 years, according to a congressionally mandated report released yesterday (January 14) by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Such a roadmap would clarify the rationale behind major new research facilities and help assure members of Congress and the scientific community that NSF is using an established set of criteria, including potential returns to science, technology, and society.

Over the past few years, members of Congress and others have criticized the NSF for poor explanations of how large research projects—such as optical and radio telescopes, high-energy particle accelerators, and networks of sensors to monitor the environment and cosmic rays—are selected and prioritized. In 2002, a group of senators requested the NAS study the matter, complaining that funding requests for large-scale NSF facilities “appear...

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