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If the federal government is going to set the nation's science priorities by spending taxpayer dollars on research and technology, it ought to do so in a comprehensive and coherent manner. That was the message delivered on November 29 by a committee of 18 scientists from academia, the government, and industry, convened by the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. In a 97-page report entitled “Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology,” the committee recommended that the President and Congress should consider the science programs and agencies paid for by the federal as a collective, prioritized whole, rather than current piecemeal line items. In short, the group told the government to look at the big picture.

“By any measure, the federal government's investments in science and technology since World War II have been a spectacular success, producing enormous benefits for the nation,” Frank Press, retired president of the National Academy of Sciences and chairman of the NAS committee, wrote in the introduction to the report. “However, the question now facing the country is how best to continue this success when factors such as the severe budget deficit, the end of the Cold War, and the growth of global competition are bringing unprecedented changes to society and to science and technology.”