WASHINGTON—The Presidential Young Investigators award program is supposed to lure newly minted scientists and engineers away from industry and into academia by offering them up to $100,000 a year for their research. The 200 young scientists chosen each year by the National Science Foundation are also asked, somewhat paradoxically, to build ties with industry by obtaining matching funds for the federal dollars they receive.

But four years after it was begun, the PYI program has failed to achieve either goal. The awards have had little effect on the career decisions of the young investigators, who are chosen only after they have accepted tenure-track university positions.

Moreover, the program has had mixed success in creating closer ties between academia and industry. The ability of scientists to obtain up to $37,500 from industry to match the NSF funds varies greatly by field. Engineers do best, obtaining 80 percent or more of the...

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