In Depth

Will pork be back on the menu?

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Science  14 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6211, pp. 797
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6211.797

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Last week's midterm elections could herald the return of earmarks—the controversial practice by Congress of funding projects proposed by individual legislators that are not in the president's budget request. Members traditionally used earmarks to build roads and bridges in their states. But starting in the late 1980s, earmarks to finance research projects and facilities also began showing up—a practice that most scientists believe subverted the merit-review process. Republicans banned them after they reclaimed the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010, and the Democratic Senate grudgingly went along. But with voters angry at Congress for the current gridlock, some party leaders favor bringing back earmarks, or "pork," to help grease the lawmaking process.