Science's Big Shift

Researchers are used to doing what they please. But in the Clinton era, more government money will flow toward work that attacks society's problems.

Ever since Ben Franklin began experimenting with electricity, the strength of American science has been the freedom it gives bright people to follow their curiosity. Today federally supported science is an enterprise unique in government: it is largely directed from the bottom up, driven by the ideas of individual scientists. In exchange for this freedom from political meddling, scientists promise enormous social benefits, from increased prosperity to better public health.

But while the U.S. government spent $27.6 billion on civilian research last year, the largest annual investment ever made by any country, there is a growing sense that something is wrong...

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