WASHINGTON—Seven universities and one hospital will receive $84.1 million this year in Energy Department funds to build research facilities. The congressional largesse, taken from funds initially budgeted for uranium enrichment programs, will mean hundreds of new jobs and more than one million additional square feet of laboratory, hospital and office space for American scientists.

Critics see the appropriation as the latest example of "pork-barrel science"—a direct appeal to Congress for construction funds in the absence of peer review for quality and need. Supporters argue that politics should play a part in the appropriation of federal funds and that lesser-known institutions deserve a slice of the federal pie as they try to strengthen their programs. There is no formal peer-review process within federal agencies to fund university facilities because, officially, there are no federal funds available for such purposes.

A look at the eight projects shows that the federal government is...

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