into debt in a decentralized fashion. Therefore, it seems likely that resource allocation and planning will become more centralized in universities. Of course, this has its undesirable side effects, and universities will have to make some hard decisions.

Universities will have to cut back on some programs to provide the increased support necessary to maintain the health of others. Each university must investigate its individual potential for university-supported maintenance and repair facilities and perhaps limited inventories of research equipment that could be shared. Iowa State University, for example, has an excellent equipment-sharing program called REAP, elements of which could perhaps be adopted by other universities. In our survey, the field research team investigated carefully the issue of sharing research equipment: Is there enough sharing going on? Should there be more? Are instruments sitting unused? A considerable amount of sharing is already going on in universities, much of which is made possible by the Materials Research Laboratories.

We did find, however, that not in all cases did the universities properly prepare for the realistic costs of operation and maintenance when they were buying research equipment. The universities should try harder to recover realistic depreciation costs. These will, of course, either increase the indirect cost base or increase the direct costs of doing research. Nevertheless, these are real costs that must be met in some way.

We found a further need to work with funding agencies to find an incentive for investigators to transfer equipment to other investigators who might make good use of it, perhaps in other universities. There is little incentive to do that now.

Our overall conclusion was that in the last 10 or 15 years, universities have supported research by supporting people, not instrumentation. Funding by the National Institutes of Health for permanent equipment declined from about 12 percent in 1966 to about 3 percent in 1985, which is clearly too low. Similarly, NSF support for equipment went through a minimum in the period between 1969 and 1976 and has since come back up as the agency recognized the problem.

In summary, an effective and balanced national research program requires that a larger percentage—probably greater than 20 percent—of our resources be devoted to instrumentation, and this must be done on a sustained basis. It will probably be necessary also to increase the size of grants in order to provide this support and to meet the increased costs of operating and maintaining this more sophisticated equipment. If there is no increase in total funding, it may be necessary to reduce the number of grants and the number of investigators supported.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement