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for the purpose of strengthening basic research and education in the sciences has been uppermost in the considerations of the staff of the National Science Foundation and of the National Science Board.
You will recall that the latter consists of 24 members appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and the Director, ex officio, as a nonvoting member.
The National Science Board constitutes a highly competent and representative body, composed as it is of individuals distinguished in research, education, public affairs, and in the administration of scientific research in these fields. It includes members representing industrial research. At the same time, it is broadly representative of the major areas of science, of large and small institutions where science is conducted, and it has a wide geographical distribution.
In addition, I have had the privilege of serving on the Science Advisory Committee ever since its establishment by Executive Order in 1951 and have continued as a Government consultant to the committee following its transfer to the White House as the President's Science Advisory Committee in 1957.
I was also a member of the Interdepartmental Committee on Scientific Research and Development during its 11 years of operation and served as its Chairman for 1 year. In addition, I served on the National Aeronautics and Space Council for 2 years and am at present a member of the Federal Council for Science and Technology. In all of these bodies the organization and planning of the Federal Government for science and technology was an important agenda item.
Part I of the reorganization plan establishes the Office of Science and Technology as a new unit in the Executive Office of the President with a Director and a Deputy Director appointed by the President. It transfers to the Director certain functions of the National Science Foundation under sections 3(a) (1) and 3(a) (6) of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 as follows. By section 3(a) (1) of the National Science Foundation Act, the Foundation is authorized and directed
(1) To develop and encourage the pursuit of a national policy for the promotion of basic research and education in the sciences;
Section 3(1) of the reorganization plan directs that there be transferred from the National Science Foundation to the Director of the new Office
(1) So much of the functions conferred upon the Foundation by the provisions of section 3(a) (1) of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 (42 U.S.C. 1862 (a) (1)) as will enable the Director to advise and assist the President in achieving coordinated Federal policies for the promotion of basic research and education in the sciences.
The role of the Foundation in administering section 3(a) (1) of the National Science Foundation Act is rendered more explicit by the provision of the Executive Order 10521, dated March 17, 1954, as amended by Executive Order 10807, dated March 13, 1959, entitled “Administration of Scientific Research by Agencies of the Federal Government," section 1 of which provides that
The National Science Foundation (hereinafter referred to as the Foundation) shall from time to time recommend to the President policies for the promotion and support of basic research and education in the sciences
It is my opinion, and that of the National Science Board which has had opportunity to review and comment on this subject, that the degree of transfer represented by the reorganization plan for this section does not remove the responsibility of the National Science Foundation for studying and recommending to the President policies for the strengthening of basic research and education in the sciences throughout the country as it has done in the past.
With the establishment of the new Office such recommendations may be referred by the President to the new Office of Science and Technology and should serve as valuable inputs to their deliberations. It is the considered opinion of the National Science Board, as it is mine, that the National Science Foundation is in a unique position to consider and recommend policies in the area of basic research and education throughout the country.
Due to its structure, its continuing studies on the status of science and scientific manpower within and without the Federal Government, and due to its close contacts with research scientists and science teachers throughout the Nation, it has unequaled opportunity to develop such plans and policies.
Section 3(a) (6) of the National Science Foundation Act reads as follows:
(6) To evaluate scientific research programs undertaken by agencies of the Federal Government, and to correlate the Foundation's scientific research programs with those undertaken by individuals and by public and private research groups;
The reorganization plan transfers to the Director of the new Office the first part of section 3(a)(6) of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 which reads as followsto evaluate scientific research programs undertaken by agencies of the Federal Government.
By decision of the Director and the National Science Board, the National Science Foundation has always interpreted its evaluation function to consist in the study and evaluation of the programs in support of basic research undertaken by agencies of the Federal Government as a whole and, in particular, by fields of science rather than by agencies and with special emphasis upon the support of research in institutions and by individuals outside the Federal Government. It has been considered inappropriate by the Foundation to evaluate the research programs of particular agencies unless so requested by the agency.
It has been the policy of the National Science Foundation, as expressed in Executive Order 10521, that the Foundation should not attempt a monopoly in the support of basic research by the Federal Government but rather in the language of section 4 of the Executive order
As now or hereafter authorized or permitted by law, the Foundation shall be increasingly responsible for providing support by the Federal Government for general-purpose basic research through contracts and grants. The conduct and support by other Federal agencies of basic research in areas which are closely related to their missions is recognized as important and desirable, especially in response to current national needs, and shall continue.
The reasoning here, I believe, is clear. Scientific research and development constitute a service to a particular Federal agency and can
provide important assistance to the agency in furthering its objectives. All agencies except the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution) have practical end objectives such as defense, agriculture, public health, etc.
Just as in the case of a large technical firm in industry, a research division or department is necessary to such agencies in order to aid the establishment in understanding its technical objectives and how to meet them, and to secure up-to-date data and ideas for carrying them out. This information should be secured at firsthand and not secondhand from another agency.
Clearly a given agency should have the experience and competence to decide and put into effect measures which will give it maximum strength on the technological side. In this a central agency such as the National Science Foundation is in position to advise regarding basic research but not to control.
This is particularly applicable to this function, and this agency should know its mission better than some outside one and be able to judge, therefore, what it should be able to do in the field of research.
I, therefore, believe that the transfer of this provision from the National Science Foundation is in the interest of clarity of policy and of greater effectiveness of administration. In the present reorganization plan such supervision and control as may be required in science and technology over particular agencies may be exercised by the new Office which, being in the Executive Office of the President, is in the proper administrative position to have this responsibility.
As Mr. Staats stated earlier, you will note that the coordination and supervision required here includes technology very much which has never been a function of the Foundation, and the Foundation has no special competence in that direction.
The mission of the Foundation is simply to encourage and promote basic research and education in the Sciences throughout the country in the national interest. The Foundation has had and should continue to have responsibility for the development and recommendation of national policy with respect to basic research in science. There has been some misunderstanding in interpretation of this point.
In the first place, one must distinguish between policy for the encouragement and support of the progress of science itself, i.e., in the applications of science, as exemplified by engineering development. This latter area is where the large amounts of money and effort are committed—roughly 10 times as much as in the basic research area: here the primary responsibility should lie with the department or agency which deals with that branch of the technology.
I believe any administration should hold each agency responsible for its own technology in the first instance.
Responsibility for review and evaluation of the research and development programs of the Federal agencies should lie at a higher level than that of the agencies themselves and it seems most fitting to place this in the Executive Office of the President.
Policy and programing in basic research is in many respects a very difficult task. In the first place, provision must be made for obtaining the judgments of the leading scientists in the various scientific disciplines and their institutions as to the promise and significance of basic research in all the areas of science.
We must remember that the bulk of this kind of research occurs all over the country and not just in the Federal Government.
Since the frontier of science is continually changing, this must be done on a continuing basis. Because the results of basic research, being research into the unknown, are generally unpredictable, one must be very cautious about assigning priorities of effort in advance other than to lack the ideas and efforts of competent researchers.
To allow a maximum of freedom and independence in basic research is one of the great assets of a free country such as ours. As a matter of fact, history shows clearly that the capital discoveries in science have in general been quite unpredictable. "A sound program in basic research should, therefore, be broad and far-reaching and cover all branches of science so as to overlook no potentialities.
Such a program should be regarded as a national investment which, if soundly made, will pay off statistically even though one cannot predict precisely where the payoff will be.
Just like an investment, there are standard pieces of research and projects which are bound to give you a return but not a large one. They are reasonably sure.
On the other hand, there are others which are outside chances for which the result is quite uncertain whether anything really valuable will be found. But if something valuable is found, it will be very valuable. So it has a number of the features of an investment.
The coordination of the research under such a program consists largely of making sure that communications are good between agencies dealing with basic research and between working individuals and research groups. Since all are intent upon making an original contribution to knowledge, all must communicate in order to know whether their work will be in fact an original contribution.
The Foundation has the experience and the contacts to develop policy in this complex sector. For the future of the country's development of its science and the training of its scientists, it is most important in my opinion that a single agency like the Foundation be in a position to concentrate attention on this problem.
Part II. National Science Foundation: In addition to the foregoing, the reorganization plan includes certain provisions which alter the National Science Foundation essentially as follows:
Section 6(b) (1) of the National Science Foundation Act reads as follows:
If an Executive Committee is established by the Board
(1) Such Committee shall consist of the Director, as a nonvoting ex officio member, and not less than five nor more than nine other members of the Board.
Section 21 of the reoganization plan reads as follows:
(a) There is hereby established the Executive Committee of the National Science Board, hereafter in this part referred to as the Executive Committee, which shall be composed of five voting members. Four of the members shall be elected as hereinafter provided. The Director provided for in section 22 of this reorganization plan, ex officio, shall be the fifth member and the chairman of the Executive Committee.
Section 22 of the reorganization plan provides that the compensation of the Director is to be at the rate of $21,000 per annum to correspond with that of under secretaries of the departments (except State and the Deputy Secretary of Defense).
The National Science Foundation Act provides that there shall be a divisional committee for each division of the Foundation appointed by the Board and consisting of not less than five persons. Each divisional committee shall make recommendations to, and advise and consult with, the Board and the Director with respect to matters relating to the program of its divisions.
Section 23. Abolitions. * * (b) (3) of the reorganization plan reads as follows:
So much of the functions conferred upon divisional committees by the provisions of section 8(d) of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 (42 U.S.C. 1867 (d)) as consists of making recommendations to, and advising and consulting with, the Board.
Thus, in the future if this plan is put into effect the divisional committees of the National Science Foundation will report to the Director and not to the Director and the Board.
Taken as a whole, these changes in the act seem to me to be reasonable and in order. The change in having the divisional committees report to the Director rather than the Director and the Board is a desirable one in that it very much clarifies the lines of authority.
The provision for the Director to serve as Chairman of the Executive Committee is believed to be in the interest of improved efficiency, especially since the Executive Committee in accordance with the provisions of the act has limited authority and only as specified by the Board.
Therefore, the deliberations of the Executive Committee will have to do largely with carrying out of policies of the Board rather nan initiating measures. Another provision makes the Director a voting member of the Board and also provides that the Board might elect the Director as Chairman.
Organization for Science and Technology in the Federal Government: In my opinion, the proposed Office of Science and Technology fills in several respects an important need in the organization for science and technology in the Federal Government.
In principle, the functions of this Office seem in the light of my experience to contain provision for solution of the most pressing problem which has faced the executive branch with increasing emphasis, namely, an assignment of the responsibility within the Executive Office of the President to an organization with its own budget and accessible to the Congress, which can undertake consideration of broad far-reaching programs and major issues arising in Government concerned with science and technology as affected by and affecting national and international policies, including the overall national security and welfare.
With inputs from the President's Science Advisory Committee, the Federal Council for Science and Technology, the National Science Foundation, and individual agencies as appropriate, this Office through its Director should prove to be of great value in providing advice to the President.
The National Science Foundation, and the National Science Board in particular, have given considerable thought to the organization of science and technology within the Federal Government, with special reference to the role of the National Science Foundation and to the policies for dealing with basic research and education.