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CENTRALIZATION OF FEDERAL SCIENCE ACTIVITIES
MONDAY, JULY 28, 1969
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10:10 a.m., in room 2325, Rayburn House Office Building, the Hon. Emilio Q. Daddario (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. DADDARIO. This meeting will come to order.
As I recall it, Dr. Wenk, you were on page 8, were you not, of your report?
Dr. WENK. Yes, Mr. Chairman; perhaps for the sake of continuity I should highlight in a minute or two the points made earlier, because these do furnish a springboard for later discussion.
Mr. DADDARIO. Fíne. Proceed as you like. STATEMENT OF DR. EDWARD WENK, JR., EXECUTIVE SECRETARY,
NATIONAL COUNCIL ON MARINE RESOURCES AND ENGINEERING DEVELOPMENT
Dr. WENK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee on Science, Research, and Development.
I believe you have had laid before you a number of propositions from wise and perceptive men that some of the imperfections in our Federal apparatus bear correction by reorganization. You have said, Mr. Chairman, that you are examining the problems but do not have a commitment to any specific remedies.
I think the point of my testimony is to get at the question, "What are we organizing for?” In order to get a better appreciation of the problem, I tried to set forth six items that were of special concern to me. The first is an inability to apply science and technology to urgent social problems of our time. Second, an increasing cleavage between science and the humanities. Third, a difficulty of imbedding science and technology in public decisionmaking by the Federal Government, and also by State and local governments. Fourth, the prevailing absence of long-range views. Fifth, still-primitive processes for sorting out priorities. And sixth, a lack of progress in public understanding of the role of science.
The part of the testimony which I have covered so far, Mr. Chairman, is focused particularly on this question of science not serving our
society. I concluded that section with four observations: First, that we do have a problem today in articulating science to the problems of our society. The loss of interest in science has been fairly widespread, to some extent reflecting an interval of time since the 1957 Soviet space shot, which, among other effects in this country, caused the budget of the National Science Foundation to undergo its sharpest percentage increase.
The second point was that this failure to increase public understanding of the dynamics of science, at the same time as its potency for contributing to our national welfare increased. And we have lost some time.
Third, that the desire of the scientific community in the past to isolate science from politics has created a breakdown in understanding of science's values and purposes.
Then I went on to point out that in my view there is a fourth problem, perhaps the most serious one, which has special relevance to this issue of Federal organization—that is the imperfect linkage between knowledge producers and consumers. We have not sufficiently considered the institutional framework by which scientific discovery, exploration and inventions are carried through the processes of engineering and technology to meet public purposes.
We have done quite well in the case of defense, in the case of nuclear energy, and in the case of our space program; but we have not done well on the civilian side.
The point of this observation is that when we consider Federal organization, I would caution against isolating science and technology into an organizationally "pure” status, in which leading a life of its own—it could inadvertently contribute to further splintering. Therefore, I would favor looking very hard at steps for strengthening science and technology in the existing civilian agencies—and I am talking about this now across the board and also at the mechanisms by which the wellsprings of new knowledge can both contribute to and be influenced by our social concerns.
Now, Mr. Chairman, going back to the prepared statement, I see I have skipped all the way up to page 11.
Mr. DADDARIO. I think that is about where you were, in fact. My own notes indicate that you had just finished the first full paragraph, bringing you down almost to the middle of page 11.
Dr. WENK. I think you are correct, Mr. Chairman. Why don't I go ahead with the next action Long-Range Planning and Policy Research?
Mr. DADDARIO. All right.
Dr. WENK. Let me now turn to the third and fourth problems of long-range planning and the need to undertake policy research to imbed science, science and technology, more effectively in public decisionmaking
Let me be clear, first, about what I regard as policy planning. I would suggest that it include:
(1) Identification of unmet needs and opportunities;
(4) The pros and cons of alternatives and the selection of priorities;
(5) The identification of the necessary resources to achieve these goals—Federal, State, local and private—and ways of mobilizing them;
(6) The delineation of impediments to progress and strategies for their circumvention, including politically conflicting interests and the areas of agreement as well as disagreement among these interests;
(7) Processes of feedback during implementation to afford corrective action; and
(8) The definition of new institutions or relationships between public and private sector needed to meet mutual interests. One fundamental property of such policy planning is the adoption of a long-range view. We need “pre-crisis," not “post-crisis,” planning. Sometimes it would seem that humans possess a genetic defect which rejects the notion of long-range planning. But no matter how cruel the discipline, we no longer can advance without a clear destination or a map of the pit falls that lie ahead.
believe it will be of great historical significance that President Nixon just a few short weeks ago established a White House staff to look to the future—to determine the direction the Nation is moving and to offer alternative courses.
As the President said:
We can no longer afford to approach the long-range future haphazardly. As the pace of change accelerates, the process of change becomes more complex. Yet, at the same time, an extraordinary array of tools and techniques has been developed by which it becomes increasingly possible to project future trends and thus to make the kind of informed choices which are necessary if we are to establish mastery over the process of change.
Mr. Chairman, you and your colleagues have expressed that same sentiment in examining the need for a technological early warning system.
In governmental planning, we enunciate purposes in general terms on which everyone agrees, but we are inclined to be timid when we are obliged to take that one next step of being specific. We have to make a choice of one direction over another and that choice means stepping on someone's toes. From where I sit, Washington has wall-towall toes. I believe that the essence of planning is not only the illumination of alternatives but choices in terms of goals-and here I mean specific goals-each of which is amenable to the preparation of a plan for accomplishment. That is almost the definition of a goalma plan which set forth the targets, the impediments, and the resources needed, and states very clearly where we would like to be in 1980 or 1990.
Last week we learned the meaning of such a goal-of sending a man to the moon. We have learned that one act of political leadership expressed by the President and supported by the Congress made it possible to define all the intermediate steps—and to meet alternative claims for funds that were often expressed vaguely.
We are in an unprecedented position today to plan in the presence rather than in the absence of fact. We have the machinery to collect information, to structure and to analyze it. We lack the people equipped by interdisciplinary knowledge and inclination, however,
and we seem to lack a determination to establish instrumentalities of objective analysis.
Let me just touch on one other aspect, the problem of allocating resources. During the early part of this decade, funding for science and technology was growing so fast that few real choices had to be made. Thus, we were spared the requirement of making choices, of deciding, for example, how much should go into research and 'development in contrast to welfare. We know now that such choices have to be made. I think we also recognize that, Vietnam or no Vietnam, there will never be enough money to do all the things that are attractive to do. And therefore, we must set priorities. If small increments of funding are available, sprinkling uniformly will not produce the results we seek. We must make choices and we must then concentrate our resources.
In a pluralistic society, in a democracy, these are priorities of the people. The President and the Congress represent that consensus in the political forum. Both of these branches of Government have equipped themselves with science policy research capabilities. But these may need strengthening, particularly those in the executive branch. The real gap lies in the ragged public understanding of science and in the retarded application of science at State and local levels of government. People in a democratic society cannot express views on key science-related issues they do not comprehend.
Public understanding, in my view, is poorer than ever before because the issues are becoming more complex. The public lacks appreciation for what science can contribute. Its contributions are often well presented by the mass media, but sometimes with a superficial "gee whiz" approach.
In any case, the lack of understanding, goes back to an earlier point of cleavage between two sectors of our society.
All too often, the problem begins right in the secondary schools when quantitative evaluation of talent separates students into those who do well in their science and math and those who do poorly. As long as these courses are taught as though every student were to become a scientist, we will fail not only to give every citizen a deeper understanding of the meaning of science, but also fail to develop a sympathy and even appetite for science by every citizen. The nonscientists and engineers in this country outnumber the technical professionals by at least 100 to 1. I would thus suggest that we consider the meaning of science for the 99th as well as the 100th.
That problem of division becomes further exaggerated at the college level and in the graduate schools where the strict specialty builds blinders and sonic barriers to communication among those who pursue different lines of scholarly endeavor. These grooves of specialization do not add up to the whole of society.
I think, Mr. Chairman, you brought this point out in your questions last week, and I believe you may have had other witnesses who touch on it.
We do not seem today to have a viable academic base for multidisciplinary research that crosses disciplines horizontally and extends science through technology vertically.
In dealing with these problems, the Federal Government can only provide the climate and the resources. The leadership must come from outside the Government. As a matter of fact, I believe that last year's amendments to the basic legislation for the National Science Foundation--that originated in this very subcommittee--will encourage these developments. When NSF exercises that new authority and the academic world casts aside some of its cautions and customs, I believe significant progress can be made.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, let me state that, while I am deeply concerned over our problems with science and technology, we should not overlook our successes. In a very short interval since World War II we have created a vigorous and productive base of academic research that has earned both admiration and recognition by professionals throughout the world. Our agility in transferring knowledge to the marketplace is really so good that it has generated a variety of apprehensions abroad, succinctly though improperly called the "technology gap." Our success stems not from the methods of science but from the processes of democracy. We have an open society; we disagree and debate but always look for improvement in the human condition. We foster communication through all sectors of our society. We encourage mobility and we have been willing to invest a sizable fraction of our wealth in trying to make education at all levels available to all of our people.
These are our strengths. No sensation of riding over a corrugated road during this interval of strenuous budgets should undermine our confidence that we are headed in the right direction.
In fact, we should recognize that our dissatisfaction stems from not having arrived rather than from heading for the wrong goals. The shock waves to evaluate our imperfections seem to come mainly from the young. And I believe this is a challenge to those of us in positions of public responsibility to examine ever more carefully the retarding forces and difficulties and the mistakes of the past.
The one urgent goal on which I believe we should focus attention is how to make our science and technology machine serve society's needs ever more effectively.
May I urge, Mr. Chairman, that as you inquire into Federal reorganization, you continue to ask the question-"what are we reorganizing for?” The answers you generate are necessary for consideration outside as well as inside the Government, if we are to realize the role of knowledge and discovery in modern society.
Thank you very much.
Mr. MOSHER. Mr. Chairman, I almost feel like applauding after that testimony. It is so articulate, so eloquent.
But Dr. Wenk has made only a passing reference here to the role that the Congress plays in the organization of science policy, yet it is implied all the way through his comments, it seems to me--at least there are questions raised by implication all the way through here about the congressional role.