WASHINGTON When top federal jobs are handed out in Washington, few plums the most desirable and highest-profile positions go to women. And a new survey shows that they don't get the prunes the less visible but most demanding jobs either. And this goes for science jobs, as well as other kinds of jobs.

Indeed, last year a private think-tank here, the Council for Excellence in Government, identified 100 prune jobs throughout the government. This year the council has narrowed its focus to select the most demanding of these posts in science and technology.

There are 66 such jobs, according to the council, and the staffing of these posts, says John Trattner, council vice president, has major implications for the nation's scientific and technical enterprise. The list includes such pressure-cooker positions as the top job at NASA, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the EPA's assistant administrator...

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