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CENTRALIZATION OF FEDERAL SCIENCE ACTIVITIES
WEDNESDAY, JULY 30, 1969
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10:13 a.m., in room 2325, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Emilio Q. Daddario (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. DADDARIO. This meeting will come to order.
Our witnesses this morning are Dr. Ivan L. Bennett, who is the director of the New York University Medical Center; and Dr. James Shannon, special assistant to the President, of the National Academy of Sciences.
In introducing them to this committee and giving them these titles, it does not mean that this is a sufficient introduction or explanation of their backgrounds. We need not go any further than to refer to the time when Dr. Shannon was the head of NIH, did an exemplary job for so many years, and Dr. Bennett, previous to his present assignment, was deputy to the Science Adviser to the President. He is also on the permanent science panel of this committee. Both have the kind of background which this committee is particularly concerned about and anxious to get advice on, so far as these hearings are concerned.
I thought that it would be wise if both Dr. Shannon and Dr. Bennett came to the table together. We will proceed first with Dr. Bennett's testimony and then with Dr. Shannon, with the committee welcome to ask questions at any time during the course of the delivery of this testimony.
STATEMENT OF DR. IVAN L BENNETT, DIRECTOR, NEW YORK
UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER
Dr. BENNETT. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DADDARIO. Before we continue, I would like to welcome to the committee a new member, Congressman James Symington, who is here for the first time, which means the committee has been somewhat enlarged, by one member on each side of the aisle. We are happy to have you, Jim. Mr. SYMINGTON. Thank you.
Dr. BENNETT. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, it is a pleasure and a privilege to appear before you again. My admiration and gratitude for your interest in national science policy and
for your many actions to support the quality and to assure the effectiveness of the Federal effort in science and technology are a part of the record of past hearings. They are expressed in the most complimentary language and fulsome phraseology that I dared to use and still retain some degree of credibility. All
of my testimony before you, until today, was given in my former official capacity as a member of the Executive Office of the President during the last administration, and was—and I think rightly-constrained by that administration's executive policies. Here at the beginning of my first statement before you as a private citizen, then, I wish to say that the compliments that I have paid in the past to the work of this subcommittee coincide with my personal opinions. My prior praise and thanks were, indeed, something more than the mere parroting of an official consensus, agreed upon at midnight meetings somewhere within the dim recesses of that fortress of administration policymaking, the Executive Office Building, I can present only one piece of tangible evidence in support of this declaration. Were it not for my high opinion of your committee's panel on science and technology last January when Dr. Lee DuBridge resigned to assume a position which places him under constraints similar to but, I hope and trust, not identical with those which I have now cast off. In short, I can now tell it like it is, or rather, tell it like I think it is.
There is a neurological disorder known as psychomotor epilepsy in which the victim, rather than suffering from periodic, generalized convulsions such as occur in the better known form of epilepsy, so-called grand mal, is subject to fleeting aberrations of mentation. A particular type of psychomotor epilepsy is characterized by episodes during which new objects or persons may seem strangely familiar. This is referred to in medical jargon as the déjà entendu phenomenon, the feeling that something one has just heard has been heard at some other time, or as the déjà vu phenomenon, the mental impression of having just seen something which has been seen before. I mention these clinical phenomena not simply to remind you of my biomedical background, but because they best characterize my initial reaction to the news that the subcommittee was planning to hold hearings on the subject of "Centralization of Federal Science Activities."
The subject of centralizing Federal science has been discussed and debated, off and on, privately and publically, for a surprisingly long time. Shortly before my former boss, Dr. Donald Hornig, ended his tenure as Science Adviser to President Johnson, he referred to the recurrent “peaking of public concern about the state of American science” which has led to suggestions for centralization as well as evolutionary steps in that direction at intervals of 5 or 6 years since World War II. This began with Vannevar Bush's landmark report, Science: “The Endless Frontier” in 1945 which along with the so-called Steelman report, “Science and Public Policy," in 1947, finally led to the establishment of the National Science Foundation in 1950. The Korean war stimulated the establishment of the Science Advisory Committee in the Office of Defense Mobilization in 1951, then the challenge of sputnik in 1957 led to the elevation of the committee to the White House as PSAC and the appointment of Dr. James Killian to advise President Eisenhower in 1957, and then after another review
of central science structures, the Office of Science and Technology was set up in 1962 to provide staff resources for dealing with scientific and technological matters at the presidential level. Six years later, in 1968, another wave of concern about the Federal effort in science and technology began to reach a crest, as is very well summarized in the report which the subcommittee has had prepared for these hearings. For example, table 1 on page 3 of that report lists 20 serious proposals for centralizing Federal science activities since 1961, of which no less than 15 were made in 1968 or 1969. This recent history of the evolution of present Federal machinery for the governance of science is, of course, familiar to us all. I was surprised to learn recently, however, that there have been outbreaks of congressional interest in a central authority for science since 1884. These have been elegently documented by Herbert Roback in an article published only this month which contains some information that I found fascinating. For example, Congress established a joint committee (then referred to as a commission) to study the organization of Goverment science agencies in 1884 and the National Academy of Sciences set up a committee to advise Congress. The Academy Committee recommended putting all of the science agencies under a central authority. Roback quotes from the Academy report as follows:
* * The best form would be, perhaps, the establishment of a Department of Science, the head of which should be an administrator familiar with scientific affairs, but not necessarily an investigator in any specific branch. Your Committee states only the general sentiment and wish of men of science when it says that its members believes the time is near when the country will demand the institution of a branch of the executive Government devoted especially to the direction and control of all the purely scientific work of the Government.
In 1946, Representative Clare Booth Luce of Connecticut introduced a bill to establish a department of science and research and her statement at the time is equally interesting since present proponents of such a department use the same argument, and I quote:
Only the prestige which attaches to a regular member of the Cabinet will render the findings of any scientific body of sufficient weight to command the constant attention of the highest officials of the Government in the consideration and formulation of policy.
I will not further rehearse the history of this question but I strongly recommend the article by Roback to those who are interested in the evolution of ideas.
The subcommittee's background report correctly points out (p. 5): Although the term “Department of Science” is most commonly used to describe the proposed change, it is actually a euphemism for centralization.
The brief historical review that I have presented also makes it clear that this euphemism has been suggested as a possible solution on every occasion when there has been a wave of concern about Federal programs in science and technology, no matter what the problem that caused the concern happened to be. Thus, in 1884, the main concern was to avoid domination by the military of science agencies; in 1945 it was the prevention of the disbanding of scientific organizations that had contributed so much during World War II; in 1952, it was the fear that the Korean war might require another mobilization of the scientific and technological community; in 1957, it was the desire to assure a response to the Russian challenge in space and in strategic weaponry; and in 1962, it was mostly congressional concern about the need to coordinate and to integrate Government scientific and technological functions which had grown enormously, had come to involve numerous departments and agencies, and were accounting for an ever-expanding share of Federal expenditures.
It is precisely because a department of science, in its euphemistic sense, has been suggested so many times before in such a variety of condition as a possible solution to so many diverse problems that I described my reaction to the news of these hearings as comparable to the déjà entendu phenomenon in psychomotor epilepsy. The concept of centralization is not new or strange; it has been seen and heard before.
I will go so far to say that centralization of Federal science activities might be characterized as a perennial solution seeking a problem. I put it this way because it seems to me that the first order of business should be to examine the problem or problems that now exist in the area with which we are concerned. We can then examine possible solutions, including various steps toward additional centralization. I accept the three categories of motivation for reconsidering centralization given in the introduction (p.5) of the subcommittees' background report-organizational neatness, assurance of adequate funding, and improvement of priority selection within and among scientific fields as laudable goals. As to the first, organizational neatness, I will only comment generally that the desirability of this in Federal programs is, by no means, limited to science and technology. More specifically, I would associate myself with a statement made by Dr. James Fisk in 1961:
The diffusion of science and technology throughout the government is not a sign of untidy administrative housekeeping. Rather it reflects the very nature of science itself. Organizationally, science is not a definable jurisdiction. Like economics, it is a tool. It is an instrument for accomplishing things having nothing to do with science.
I think that I can be most useful to the subcommittee if I confine the remainder of my remarks to a single segment of the broad problem which is under scrutiny in these hearings—the Federal programs for the support of academic science.
After more than 15 years as a university faculty member and recipient of Federal grants and contracts for the support of my own research, I became a member of the Office of Science and Technology where one of my major areas of responsibility was the array of programs for support of academic science. During the time that I was in the Office of Science and Technology, I conducted a detailed yearlong interagency study of these programs for the specific purpose of examining in detail the system of support which has evolved, of evaluating its strengths and weaknesses, of determining how it might be improved, and of deciding how improvements might best be implemented. In my present position as a university administrator, I have had additional opportunity to observe how the operation of system effects not only the individual scientist in the university but also the institution itself.
Based upon this experience, I have prepared a detailed paper which I will submit for the record. I will summarize only the recommendations in this statement. The analysis and the recommendations are entirely my responsibility. It is important to emphasize, however, that the substance of the recommendations in the paper was agreed to unanimously by all participants in the study just mentioned on a personal basis; that is, no official agency clearance or position was sought or obtained. Some members of the study group would have preferred to go further than the suggestions I have listed and some had additional ideas that they would have liked to include but all agreed to what I have prepared. I have not rechecked the conclusions with the group since completion of the study last December and some may well have changed their views; this is why I emphasize that the responsibility is mine. Among those who participated in this review and who have since left the Government are Dr. James Shannon, then Director of the National Institutes of Health, who is here today (and who can certainly speak for himself), Dr. Gerald Tape, then a member of the Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. Leland Haworth, the Director of NSF, and Mr. William Carey, then Assistant Director of the Bureau of the Budget.
Academic science encompasses research in the physical, biological, engineering, and social sciences which is carried out in the Nation's universities and colleges and the related educational programs, predominantly at the graduate and professional level. Some of this research can be classified as basic and some as applied. A small proportion can properly be termed technological development. The determination of the exact proportion of each of these three subclasses of scientific investigation within the total mix of academic science is largely a semantic problem and is unimportant in terms of overall policy. The main point is that, as a result of more than two decades of experience, academic science has come to include a varied array of scientific activities, concentrated in the basic sector, that can be carried out willingly, appropriately, and effectively in institutions of higher learning. About 10 percent of the total Federal budget for R. & D. now supports academic science and 6 percent of the Nation's total funding of R. & D. goes to colleges and universities (excluding Federal contract research centers.)
It is worth noting that academic science is responsible for at least one-half of the Nation's basic research, the most innovative segment of our overall scientific effort, often referred to as its "cutting edge." Generally speaking, however, the nature, methodologies, and objectives of academic research are not qualitatively different from those of research performed in many nonprofit institutes, in municipal, State and Federal laboratories, or in industrial laboratories. It is not any peculiarity of scientific content that prompts consideration of academic science as an entity. Rather, it is the association of this portion of the Nation's research endeavor with institutions of higher learning and its resulting effects, direct and indirect, upon higher education which create problems of particular concern to the Federal Government and the Nation.
At this stage in the evolution of Federal programs of support for research in the country's universities and colleges, the following aspects of the situation are giving rise to problems:
Federal funds now support more than 75 percent of all academic research. The vast majority of this money ($1.235 billion of a total