Mention lobbying to a scientist and until quite recently the typical response was disinterest or discomfort. Active involvement in the political fray over the public funding of research has simply not been within the experience of most scientists. Moreover, the pejorative connotations evoked by terms like "lobby" and "political action committee" only reinforce an innate distaste many hold for overt forms of influencing decision-makers in government. That distaste has been enormously strengthened lately as some U.S. universities have, through direct lobbying that bypasses the merit review process, successfully appealed to Congress for facilities funding.

Historically, scientists have been more comfortable with indirect—or so-called non-lobbying—lobbying efforts, such as those of the academies and national associations. But that is changing, here and abroad.

"The dependence of scientific research on the large sums that have to be voted on by popularly elected governments and legislative bodies has focused the minds of scientists on...

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