Federal Funding in Materials Research

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  12 Sep 1980:
Vol. 209, Issue 4462, pp. 1203-1207
DOI: 10.1126/science.209.4462.1203


The performance of the 20 materials research laboratories (MRL's) at universities funded with institutional grants by the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration is evaluated in comparison with 15 other universities (non-MRL's) receiving individually funded projects for materials research. Performance is measured by peer review and citation frequency analysis of publications, subjective evaluation of research achievements and researcher reputation by a panel of experts, review of equipment purchases and utilization, and analysis of administrative costs. The study concludes that there are no significant differences between the MRL's and non-MRL's with respect to innovation, interdisciplinarity, utilization of specialized equipment, concentration of funding, rate of tumover, duration of research areas, and level of effort per research paper. The MRL's have a greater number of major achievements and attract researchers with higher reputations. The MRL's tend to emphasize experimental work, and in about 70 percent of the materials research areas sponsored by the National Science Foundation there is no overlap between the two groups. Institutional grants involve much less total (federal plus university) administrative cost per grant dollar than project grants.