Malcolm Gladwell {Oct. 22} suggested that the United States may be beginning the end of its Golden Age of science. He argues that as a result of our policy of distributing research funds widely across the country to multiple independent investigators, "researchers tend to be able to pursue their own ideas at a younger age than in Europe." Since, as he points out, Nobel Prize winners do their prize-winning research in their late twenties and early thirties, the United States has since World War II garnered a lion's share of the science prizes.

What Mr. Gladwell fails to point out is that because of public policy, young U.S. scientists are now spending more time in post-doctoral positions, where their opportunities for independent and creative research are limited. They are not getting the opportunity to pursue truly independent research until their late thirties.

It is also the case that because of the limited funding for research post-doctoral mentors are often spending their time seeking funding rather than spending time at the bench or time with their students. When these students do become independent, they must spend an inordinate amount of time writing grant applications in order to compete with their seniors.

These factors ensure, as Mr. Gladwell predicts, that in the coming decades American scientists will become less competitive on the world scene.

RICHARD E. WHALEN Alexandria