The old brick buildings, which lack central air conditioning, can be stifling in the summer and drafty in the winter. Most of the offices are cramped, sometimes forcing scientists to work in hallways and beside equipment as loud as circular saws. Their labs, built during the Kennedy administration, offer little space for serious research.

On the edge of Vineyard Sound, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, the federal government’s oldest marine research facility and a pivotal player in the region’s fishing industry, is seeking a major overhaul, through long-deferred renovations or a new center elsewhere in the region.

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