Administration should also examine whether federal investments keep our nation among the world leaders in science and engineering research across fields. International benchmarking provides one method for analyzing the status of U.S. science in particular fields.7 The Administration should consider mechanisms such as this as it moves forward with analyses of the outcomes of federal science and technology programs.

As the Administration extends the application of applied R&D criteria throughout the government for use in the development of the FY 2004 budget, it should be mindful of the difference between a focus on “performance” and a focus on “leadership.” Performance measures that focus too heavily on near-term results may provide strong incentives to focus on conservative goals. Performance measures that focus on results without assessing whether a program has adequate funding may penalize a program by decreasing its funding, when, in fact, the program requires increased funding. A focus on leadership, by contrast, would examine adequacy of funding, infrastructure, and human resources and whether programs promote risky research on the frontiers of knowledge. The goal of federal funding for research is to maintain a science and engineering enterprise that is world-class across fields and preeminent in fields relevant to national priorities.


National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, Experiments in International Benchmarking of U.S. Research Fields , Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000.

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