« PreviousContinue »
On page 3 you refer to the often primitive processes to sort out priorities, and I think I hope that some years from now we will look back at our present state in Congress and feel our processes were rather primitive right now in that function. On page 12 these aspects of the policy planning that
you delineate all imply-or are really all part of the process we in Congress have to go through in making certain decisions. And you refer to the fact that the nonscientists outnumber 100 to 1 in the population, and certainly that is reflected here in the Congress. I don't think there is one scientist in the Congress. We are all lawyers. And so this raises the question, I suggest one of many questions, about the capability of the Congress to properly make these decisions. How do we compensate for the fact that we are nonscientists?
I suppose one compensating factor is this and I think you have said this yourself, Dr. Wenk, in some of your other statements: The decisions that we make in Congress concerning science are really not science decisions; they don't deal with the scientific technicalities, they are really management decisions and there is some hope for us, I guess, that we can make policy management decisions without being scientists.
But do you want to talk about the role of the Congress just a little bit, as it applies to the basic questions that we are considering?
Dr. WENK. Well, thank you, Mr. Mosher, for your kind remarks about the statement. In all candor, much of what I have said here I have learned from some vears spent in the legislative branch. And so I feel that I have learned from the Congress a good deal about processes of public decisionmaking, which in turn have affected my views on how science may contribute. I will be specific about this.
First let me come back to your point on how the Congress prepared itself to consider these issues. I don't know how appropriate it is for someone from the executive branch even to touch on this point, but if I may be permitted to make observations as an individual rather than as an officer of the administration
Mr. MOSHER. Well, you were only recently an employee of the Congress, so I think you have a right.
Dr. WENK. I feel that in the first instance, the point that there are so few scientists and engineers in the Congress itself is not terribly relevant to the process of decisionmaking. The issues are political decisions that have to reflect the process of consensus. And this means that those of you who sit over here must understand the conflicts that occur, and then make some judgment as to the direction in which we should proceed.
The role of science and technology here, it seems to me, is first to increase the range of options. What is therefore necessary is to make sure not only that you have the facts, but that they are presented to you in your language, not the language of the scientist. This does not mean any diminution of the sharpness of the presentation. It seems to me that this is the role that you and your staff and the Library of Congress have been playing, trying to take scientific knowledge and discovery and identify its relevance to issues. This in turn indicates to you two things: No. 1, the wider choices you have as a result of the opportunities afforded by science, and two, the consequences of
making certain decisions where today we can see the future a little more clearly than before in terms of technology assessment.
And I do not believe this takes a scientist or engineer. It takes a certain disposition to deal with public policy, and I believe that men from all walks of life who come to the Congress have this.
May I make one other observation, though, in this regard?
When I spoke before a science policy group assembled at the Academy the week before last, I was asked the question, "In what way should a graduate student be best prepared to deal with science policy?" I believe I surprised them when I said that the most fundamental combination of disciplines was science and the law. And the reason I mention this stems really from my exposure to the Congress where all of you are lawmakers, even though you may not be trained as lawyers. The law interposes a discipline that is not only intellectual, but reflects the very roots of the way this Government operates.
It is a government of the people. The law is first a way of providing clear definitions of our social goals, and purposes, arrived at by consensus. Furthermore, through the acts of Congress and its actions on appropriations, you are saying what resources you, the Congress, feel the people want to assign to these different objectives.
For our part, those of us in science and engineering have to try a lot harder than we ever have before to make the information available to you in terms that you can use, not in scientific or engineering jargon.
Ï believe a start has been made on this, but we have a long way to come. We did not do enough to gain an understanding during the interval in which science and technology were growing, and I believe this is one of the problems we face today. This committee has concentrated on these issues, but science and technology are a matter of concern of every committee of the Congress now, and
every appropriations subcommittee. The Congress, I believe, has been entirely sincere in some recent actions such as the National Science Foundation budget. But I feel that we have not done well enough in communicating the problems to the Congress.
Mr. MOSHER. You are saying that engineers and scientists should talk more to Congressmen or talk more effectively to Congressmen. That is one thing you are saying, is that it?
Dr. WENK. Indeed, yes. This, of course, is where the action is.
Mr. MOSHER. Should the National Science Foundation, and perhaps other agencies, provide more effective liaison, more effective means by which Congressmen learn by-not just the members of this committee but other Congressmen learn about what the National Science Foundation means and what it is trying to do?
Dr. WENK. Well, I think the officers of each agency have that obligation. I have both been asked to prepare testimony and, when on this side of Washington, heard it and read it. I realize that those few hours that a senior public official has before you are crucial in communicating the essence of his whole program in terms of public purposes. The kind of statement required in this context must be not just an explanation of technical matters, but must attempt to relate them to the political process. And I believe that officials of every agency need to devote themselves to this.
It also goes beyond that point to what I mentioned in my testimony, that there is really not an adequate base of science policy research in the universities, and particularly I feel, in the executive branch. If I may be permitted a comparison, I believe it is fair to say we do not have any independent capabilities in one place in the executive branch such as that in the Library of Congress, that can draw on not only the science and engineering disciplines, but also on other disciplines of foreign policy and economics, public administration, law, which are necessary to synthesize this whole process of converting science to serve our social purposes. A science policy research capability which has both a permanence and an isolation from the winds of political fortune has never been built up.
Mr. Mosher. Just to get back to Congress again for the moment, I don't think we should ask you to do it here, but at some point I would love to have you—and I think that your experience makes you a more logical person than most to do this I would love to have you be very specific in suggesting to us what Congress itself needs to do to improve the mechanics and the staffing by which it can better play its role in this whole area.
Dr. WENK. All right. I am not sure this witness is the fount of very much wisdom here that you haven't heard from others but I will do my best, Mr. Mosher, to try to provide something for you.
Mr. MOSHER. I think that will be a valuable service. I won't take any more time, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DADDARIO. Mr. Brown?
Mr. Brown. Dr. Wenk, on page 11 you suggest the establishment of multidisciplinary research institutes, each focused on social goals. Could you give us some examples of what you have in mind?
(Information requested is as follows:)
On the question of strengthening science policy research for the legislative branch–I believe experience has confirmed the wisdom of the Congress in establishing the Science Policy Research Division in the Library of Congress Legislative Reference Service. The unit was thus built on the traditions and capabilities of providing an independent, objective analysis to Members and committees of the Congress and provided a readymade opportunity to blend expertise from the field of economics, law, foreign affairs, public administration, etc., with considerations of science and technology. From my own observations as first Chief of the Division, I feel that it has not been able to meet the needs of the Congress both because it has been limited in size and because some additional clarification may be needed of its advisory role. Extending its capabilities could be readily accomplished by:
(a) Some additions to professional staff,
(6) Making use of ad hoc consultation with individual experts, panels or with professional organizations, and
(c) Providing funds for policy research on contract with universities or nonprofit organizations. I believe, incidentally, that the pending legislative reorganization bill would explicitly authorize these latter two functions.
As to the role of this staff organization—I have always felt that the term "science policy research” involved technology assessment, far
more than science. The concept of assessment should permit a staff organization to undertake studies on its own initiative whenever the issues appear sufficiently compelling but where time and circumstances have not made it possible for immediate inquiry by congressional committees. Such studies could be thus undertaken and made available to the Congress somewhat in the fashion of the GAO.
Apart from these steps for strengthening the inhouse capabilities of the legislative branch, I believe that the types of policy research that would be undertaken in technological institutes of the kind I describe later in my testimony would also be of enormous value to the Congress in sorting out issues, anticipating unwanted second- or third-order consequences of new technology, and setting priorities on matters of social concern.
Dr. WENK. Yes. I will answer the question, if I may, in two ways: First with regard to such areas where such institutes may be useful; and secondly some brief description of what such an institute could contain.
As we review our current concerns to list those which have a science and technology ingredient, we could mention such areas as transportation and housing. I should broaden the latter to make it almost "architectural sciences," or use the old-fashioned term of "city planning sciences,” because I believe housing is only a part of it, and it is too limited a word to describe what I think is involved here.
Science and technology are involved also in communication, in recreation, crime, and particularly in education, and in the terribly important area of management of the environment. And I believe I could add four or five items to this list.
In each case I think we see what the problem is: congestion at our airports, of increasing pollution of our air, water, land, and so on. We also see that science has inadvertently contributed to these problems-and that it has not contributed as systematically as we would hope to their solutions.
The National Institutes of Health, I think, provide something of a pattern here, especially if we consider the role of the institutes in developing information on the medical sciences that goes all the way through to clinical practice.
I would expect that interdisciplinary institute in general would contain not only the scientists and engineers who would be either developing new knowledge or better yet, collecting it and sorting it, structuring it, but also people who understand the political processes of getting things done.
For example, in our own area of marine sciences, one of the major problems now concerns the management of our coastal zone. This is a stretch of land and water in which there are sharply increasing demands for recreational use, for shipping, for commercial fishing, for housing, for the construction of powerplants. It turns out that the number of demands exceed the capacity of the coastal zone to accept them. Though we may see ways in which science and engineering can clean up the water or help to set priorities on what essentially would be a kind of zoning, the decisions on the zoning lie right down at the local level, or at the State level rather than the Federal level. All the knowledge in the world isn't going to help to solve these problems
until there is some way of helping those involved in the political processes understand how to deal with science and engineering.
So what I am suggesting is that such institutes understand and have the necessary mix of economists and those who have understood politics firsthand, who could carry through the potential of science and engineering to a final solution. I think this is what has been lacking
Mr. Brown. Well, don't we have at least an embryo development along this line ?
For example, I know that HUD is proposing-or has set up some sort of an Urban Research Institute. I presume that the Department of Transportation is moving in that direction, and possibly—well, in the case of your own organization, aren't there a multitude of research facilities concerned with the problems of marine environment?
What is the relationship of what you are proposing to these things which already exist ?
Dr. WENK. You are quite right that HUD has made a start in this direction. I am not sure whether the scope of the institute which they established is quite as broad as I would visualize.
The idea of a transportation institute has been in the public domain for at least 10 or 15 years. I heard this proposed long ago. And yet I do not believe we have anything like such a research and planning institute today.
In the case of marine sciences, we really have nothing to deal with the coastal zone. The Commission which was chaired by Dr. Julius Stratton, that recently submitted its report to the Congress and the President, made some clear proposals in this regard. They proposed two things: one, the establishment of State-managed coastal zone authorities that would gain support perhaps on a grant-in-aid basis from the Federal Government, and also coastal zone laboratories that would deal with problems such as monitoring the environment, and presumably be the source of expertise to these coastal zone authorities.
Now, the Commission did not discuss the kind of concept that I have proposed here, of linking these two together, but it has that strong potential. And I believe that now as the Government works on the Stratton Commission proposals, we will try to come up with something of this kind. We do not have it today.
Mr. Brown. Would it be asking too much of you to ask that you submit to the committee not an exhaustive, but at least a somewhat more extensive list of the areas in which you believe that we could profit by use of these multidisciplinary research institutes ? Because it is a suggestion which seems to me to have a great deal of merit and I would like to see it explored somewhat further.
Dr. WENK. I would be glad to. (Information requested is as follows:) Topic areas warranting creation of multidisciplinary institutes would include the following:
1. City planning sciences.