Three Faculty members have disagreed with a Senate report claiming that up to $200 million is wasted every year by "needless duplication of electronic research."
R.W.P. King, Gordon Mackay Professor of Applied Engineering, pointed out that most of the duplication is needed for confirmation of research discoveries. He also explained that "two scientists may work on the same problem, but highlight features that are entirely different."
King suggested a "clearing house" as a means of eliminating reports of duplicated research work in science journals and magazines. He admitted, though, that "the tremendous amount of information coming out of laboratories today" makes classification nearly impossible.
'Weekly Progress Reports'
George B. Kistiakowsky, Abbot and James Lawrence Professor of Chemistry, disagreed with the idea of a clearinghouse, however. He felt that there may be some waste when scientists do the same work, but added, "scientists already have enough paper work without having to write weekly progress reports."
He also mentioned that a clearing house could not keep track of changes in research plans due to last minute discoveries and ideas.
Lack of Understanding
The conflict between the Senate estimation of the amount of waste from duplication and the scientists' opinions, said W. Eric Gustafson, research fellow in the Graduate School of Public Administration, stems from the fact that "the layman does not understand very much about scientific research."
The senate charge came out in a release early this month. In estimating the waste of $200 million, the release stated that "One tenth of all federally supported electronic research may consist of unwitting, needless duplication of effort."