Spurred by a shortage of qualified personnel, mean annual salaries paid to scientists working in independent laboratories rose sharply in 1990 compared with compensation levels two years earlier, a recent survey has found.

Bench scientists with expertise in analyzing a wide variety of items--including food, blood, air, and water--received pay increases that outpaced inflation, according to the American Council of Independent Laboratories Inc. (ACIL).

The nonprofit group, based in Washington, D.C., gathered responses from 211 of its member firms, nearly all of which are engaged in some form of analytical chemistry or engineering laboratory work.

ACIL defines an independent laboratory as "a tax-paying business engaged in analysis, testing, inspection, materials engineering, sampling, research, or development and related consulting services for the public. It is not affiliated with any institution, company, or trade group."

Results of the survey underscore a growing demand through the late 1980s for laboratory scientists, as well...

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