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Panel Halts Publication of Research Reports

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Washington--An Education Department review panel has barred 17 federally supported education laboratories from issuing a number of publications related to research contracted for by the department.

The move marks the first time that the department has applied a 1981 executive order intended to curb wasteful federal publishing to projects it has sponsored at the regional laboratories.

The Publication and Audiovisual Advisory Council (pavac)--the five-member panel that must clear virtually all department publications and audiovisual projects--last month rejected 98 of 439 proposed publications submitted by the labs supported by the National Institute of Education.

Researchers with the labs have expressed concern that pavac's decision--made six months after the nie approved their one-year contracts--leaves them vulnerable to auditors who could in the future demand repayment for all prepublication work on a project that has been disallowed.

Some of the researchers have also claimed that the panel injected "po-litical" considerations into the decisions. Department officials have denied this charge.

The researchers also contend that denying them the opportunity to disseminate their work directly contradicts the dissemination mission of the labs.

nie's Advice

The nie, arguing that pavac's decisions apply only to "typing, editing, layout, and printing" of the final products, "strongly suggests'' that the labs not appeal the rejections, which they are entitled to do, according to E. Joseph Schneider, executive director of the Council on Educational Development and Research, an umbrella group for the labs and centers. The publication review applies only to contracts under which more than 50 copies of a given document are printed.

"You are authorized under your existing contract to continue with or to begin research activities leading to the preparation of a product, even if the printing and physical production of that product was disapproved or approved with changes by pavac," states a letter to the labs from Raymond F. Wormwood, an nie contracting official.

The nie is essentially telling the labs and centers that "if you guys play ball, we think we can cut a deal," said Mr. Schneider. Under such an arrangement, he explained, the researchers would be reimbursed for development and printing costs involved in a project if they print fewer than 50 copies of the resulting publication.

Labs' Comments

Mr. Schneider suggested that in many cases, the labs would indeed "play ball," although they would appeal a handful of the rejections.

The nie's interpretation of the narrow scope of pavac's ruling was "absolutely critical" in the decision of the Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development not to appeal the rejections, according to Nikola N. Filby, senior program director there.

Of the lab's 90 proposed publications, Ms. Filby said, 13 were rejected.

The lab is appealing pavac's decision to permit a set of case studies of "principals as instructional leaders" to be included in the Educational Resources Information Center (eric), a database supported by the Education Department, but not to be published for wider distribution.

Terry L. Eidell, director of the Appalachia Educational Laboratory, said that Mr. Wormwood's letter "may clear up some contract concerns.''

But beyond that, Mr. Eidell, whose lab is appealing pavac's rejection of six of nine publications reviewed, commented, "Our business is to assist educators. It's important that these products get published."

The department has not released the titles of publications that were rejected. But according to spokesmen for several labs, some of the those rejected included: a series on school-family relations; a manual called "What is Scientific Literacy?" and several supporting publications; studies on collegial teams at schools; and applications of research in teacher education.

Department's Rationale

In a statement last month, Anne M. Graham, the Education Department's assistant secretary for legislation and public affairs and chairman of pavac, said that the panel, established in all federal agencies by the 1981 executive order, tries "to ensure that federally funded research is essential and cost-effective."

She said the rejected publications fall into seven categories: 38 were in an unacceptable format; 13 had not chosen a topic or done the necessary research; 12 are duplicates of existing publications; 11 require significant "cost modifications"; 10 were untimely; 8 were "inappropriate" for federal support; and 6 were non-essential to the success of a project.

Of the 341 publications that were not rejected outright, 131 were approved unchanged; 86 are to be included in eric; 82 were deferred because the labs did not supply enough information; 35 were approved following cost modifications; and 7 did not require pavac review.

Committee's Request

The House subcommittee with jurisdiction over the nie has asked pavac for a list of the rejected publications and for copies of the reviewers' comments. But the department has not complied with the request, which was made several weeks ago.

Representative Pat Williams, Democrat of Montana, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Select Education, will withhold comment on the matter until pavac submits all the materials requested, said the subcommittee's staff director, S. Gray Garwood.

"There's nothing to comment on until we see the supporting documents," he said.

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