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N.A.S. Panel Launches a Major Study Of Federal Role in

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Education Research By Robert Rothman Washington--A major study of the federal role in education research got under way this month when a panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences met for the first time to begin laying out an agenda for the evaluation.

The study, commissioned by the Education Department's office of educational research and improvement, is expected to examine the full range of educational research conducted in the United States to identify the appropriate role for the O.E.R.I. At the same time, the panel is expected to look closely at the research agency's structure and operations--as well as those of other agencies--to evaluate whether its current funding priorities are appropriate.

Gregg B. Jackson, the study director, said the academy's project is narrower in scope than another evaluation, expected to be released in April by the National Academy of Education, which will assess the entire educational-research enterprise.

"We will focus attention on a4limited subset," Mr. Jackson said. "No decision has been made to date about what [that subset] will be."

But he added that the National Academy of Sciences study could help shape the upcoming Congressional debate over the reauthorization of the oeri The panel plans to issue an interim report this fall and a final report by next March, he said, well before the reauthorization legislation receives final approval.

A similar study on the National Center for Education Statistics, conducted by the academy in 1986, played an influential role in Congressional debates over reorganizing and improving that agency, Mr. Jackson noted.

Chaired by Richard C. Atkinson, chancellor of the University of California at San Diego, the 15-member nas panel includes scholars from a variety of fields, policymakers, and business leaders.

As its first task, Mr. Jackson said, the panel will conduct a "broad brush" survey of education research to identify the major actors, the most active research areas, and the audiences served.

The committee will also examine other federal agencies that fund research, such as the National Science Foundation and the National Insti tutes of Health, to determine if their experience offers lessons for the oeri

The panel's main task, however, is expected to be a close evaluation of the oeri itself. In addition to studying the agency's planning pro cess and intramural research, Mr. Jackson said, the panel will pay par ticular attention to the national re search-and-development centers and regional laboratories funded by the Education Department. The labs and centers conduct the bulk of oeri.-sponsored research.

Some critics have said that the de partment's research arm should fund a smaller number of larger centers, which would examine a broader scope of issues. Others have argued that the oeri should place greater emphasis on funding individual researchers, rather than institutions.

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