Daniel C. McCarthy, Senior News Editor
Predicting funding trends for laboratory research is more of an art than a science. Science at least follows some semblance of fixed natural laws that under repeatable conditions produce repeatable results. These natural laws, unfortunately, do not apply to the political forces that determine spending for most nonindustrial research.
The Departments of Defense and Energy are the two most vital sources of capital for Federal and academic labs. They also fuel research in major industrial areas like electronics, machinery and computers.
Even with additional money granted by the Senate, however, the combined budgets for these departments will take a 1.2 percent cut below FY99 spending. Most of this represents cuts in development programs. Basic and advanced programs -- the money that nearly 90 percent of academic research depends on -- could actually increase in next year's defense budget by 4.9 percent.