On the other hand, noncompetitive funding, by formula or congressionally designated special grants, is inherently inequitable, inefficient, and lacking in accountability.
The lack of competitive funds designated for agricultural research multiplies the incentive for experiment station and other food and agricultural scientists to seek such funds competitively from other sources. In 1992 experiment station research at 1862 LGCAs was supplemented by $226 million in funds from NIH, NSF, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal funding sources (National Research Council, 1995a). A majority of these supplemental funds are presumed to be competitive as most are attributable to NIH and NSF, whose research allocation processes are almost exclusively project-based and competitive. There is some consternation within the agricultural community that, by virtue of the greater availability of these funds relative to funding designated for food and agricultural research, some of the best and brightest of the experiment station researchers have avoided food and agriculture system issues and research needs.
The committee concludes that there is a need to preserve the advantages offered by formula funding, particularly their facilitation of linked research, extension, and teaching programs (which is the basis for Recommendation 4). However, the relative lack of competitively awarded and peer-reviewed research specific to food and agricultural system issues places severe limitations on the ability of the land grant system and other research institutions to meet the research challenges of the future.
A large role for competitive funding in agricultural research would lessen the perception that agricultural research is separate and insulated from the rest of the scientific community.
RECOMMENDATION 9. The federal government should increase competitive funding of food and agricultural research projects. The funding level for competitive grants should be no less than the $500 million authorized by Congress for the National Initiative for Research in Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (NRI). Additionally, the share of total federal research support awarded competitively to projects and individuals (including teams) on the basis of peer-reviewed merit should be increased. Recognizing fiscal constraints, options for increasing the share include (a) directing funds to research from other USDA budget categories, particularly as a means of reinvesting savings on agricultural subsidies; (b) transferring to competitive grants programs