WASHINGTON—James Welty is a professor of mechanical engineering at Oregon State University. But for the past 16 months he has been living on the East Coast under a special program that brings academics temporarily into government service.

Welty works at the Department of Energy, reviewing grant proposals, setting up engineering meetings, and advising other scientists. He is one of 970 researchers currently on detail to the federal government under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, which allows agencies to hire university faculty for a short time at salaries higher than they could earn as civil servants.

The federal agencies gain access to top-flight researchers who are familiar with the most recent developments in their fields. Such professors are often reluctant to come to Washington, government officials say, because of the government's restrictive salary schedule.

Researchers, in turn, enjoy a firsthand look at the federal agencies that fund their work. They expect such...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?