Projects, Anyway?

AUTHOR: Jeffrey Mervis, p.11,13.

Twice in a recent eight-day span, the United States House of Representatives debated the proper balance between "big" and "little" science. In both cases, big science won.

The debates preceded separate votes on appropriations bills for fiscal year 1992. Although the bills include proposed funding for such items as low-income housing and federal water projects, most of the more than 10 hours spent discussing them centered on the value of two megascience projects: the Energy Department's superconducting supercollider (SSC) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Freedom space station.

In both cases, the underlying issue was the comparative payoffs of the two undertakings, in particular, whether these multibillion-dollar efforts are worth the cost and what effect they will have on hundreds of other projects that enhance the human condition. Resolution of the matters stands to impact the professional futures of thousands of working scientists....

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