GAITHERSBURG, MD—The government could attract and retain a greater share of top-quality scientists and engineers if it could offer them more competitive salaries, hire them more quickly, and award raises and promotions on individual performance.

That belief, held by research administrators both inside and outside government, is the driving force behind a five-year experiment at the National Bureau of Standards. Responding to a successful demonstration project begun in 1980 at two Navy work sites—the Naval Ocean Systems Center in San Diego and the Naval Weapons Center in China Lake, Calif.—Congress last fall told the Bureau to start a similar program by January 1988.

"The whole scheme is borrowed from industry," said John Lyons, director of the National Engineering Laboratory at NBS and the leader of a team responsible for developing the new system. "The concepts are straightforward and old."

Part of the problem with attracting and keeping scientists is the...

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