Page images
PDF
EPUB

of $1.455 billion in fiscal year 1967) is provided by more than a dozen "mission agencies" as "project" or "program” grants or contracts for research in specific fields by indivdual faculty members or faculty groups. Each agency supports research in those areas (including mission-related basic research) that are relevant to the accomplishment of its overall mission. Judgments of relevance have been rather broad in the past, and most basic research in the universities is supported by such agencies as NIH, NASA, DOD, and AEC. However, tightening of budgets has tended to lead to reassessment and stricter definition of "relevancy” both by the agencies and by Congress. Only about 15 percent ($220 million of a total of $1.455 billion in fiscal year 1967) of support now comes from NSF, the one agency authorized to support the advancement of knowledge in all fields of science, without regard to relevance to the missions of Federal agencies such as DOD, AEC, PHS, or Agriculture. The financial inability of NSF to play a more significant role in funding university research at a time when mission agency funds are dwindling and the range of their support among fields is narrowing poses severe and unprecedented problems in maintaining a balanced national development of the various branches of science for the future.

Institutions of higher learning are hard-pressed to sustain all of their activities in the face of rising enrollments, increasing difficulties in securing additional funds from public and private sources, resistance to increasing tuition, demands that they undertake additional important service activities for localities, States, and the Nation, and rising costs.

Academic research is so intimately interwoven with graduate and professional education in science and engineering that it is virtually impossible to consider Federal support of research and Federal support of graduate and professional education in isolation because any significant change in one is immediately reflected in the other.

To a substantial degree, the system for support of academic science has been adapted over the years to take account of the needs of institutions. However, we are now seeing that a system designed fundamentally to meet the needs of Federal agencies for science and technology is not an adequate means of meeting the emerging responsibilities of the Federal Government for support of higher education. Many of the questions now raised with respect to the Wadequacy" really directed to the more fundamental question of the nature of the of the existing Federal system for support of academic science are responsibilities of the Federal Government for the support of universities, and particularly for the support of graduate education.

The constrained Federal academic science budgets of the past 4 years have hastened recognition of the fact that the present structure is unresponsive to the need to serve a new and different purpose-surport of higher education. The agencies which compose the network supporting academic science serve essentially as separate conduits for funds to support research, training, or institutional development but, in concert, they do not function as a system responsive to the needs of universities in general because they were not intended or designed to constitute such a system.

The “pause” resulting from prevailing budgetary constraints and those in prospect for the immediate future affords an excellent oppor

tunity for a precise assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing system which will be crucial to designing a superior system for the long run. Present circumstances can expose and force choices relating to policy and purpose and to means and structure which were not clearly seen by either Government or universities while budgets were still increasing.

RECOMMENDATIONS

A. ESTABLISH MORE STABLE FUNDING FOR ACADEMIC SCIENCE

Inability to establish a persuasive case for moderate continuing increases in funds for academic science is an urgent, central problem and a major source of current difficulties. Planning for academic science in the executive branch must be more coherent, the product must be more forceful and persuasive, and efforts to convince Congress and the public of the value of academic science must be more effective.

1. Prepare a 3-year "indicative plan” for Federal support of academic science: Plans for Federal support for academic science could be considered more deliberately, plans laid more judiciously, and the product presented more logically and persuasively to the Congress and the public if the main characteristics of Federal support for academic science (funding, methods of support, major areas of emphasis, and so forth) were laid out for 3 years in advance. Such a plan should provide policy guidance on the growth and directions of support and on the changing mix among agencies and among the various forms of support.

The plan should include minimal projections for funding by all agencies which now support academic research. It should be agreed by all the agencies and, hopefully, it could be used to indicate to Congress that integrated budgeting is indeed taking place. The plan could be made public as an “indicative” planning document for the universities. Such a plan would provide an opportunity to restate the rationale for Federal support of academic science and would provide a vehicle for better informing the Congess and the public.

OST capabilities to deal with this planning should be strengthened by the establishment of an academic science policy coordinating staff. The NSF should be given formal responsibility for providing factual and analytical backup.

BOB and OST should, in consultation with the major agencies concerned, prepare a 3-year indicative plan for Federal support of academic science for the fiscal year 1971 budget and every year thereafter.

2. Increase the budget of the National Science Foundation: Both to deal with the present disarray in the universities and as a first step in carrying out a long-range policy, the budget of NSF for the next fiscal year should be increased. Specifically, the next administration budget for NSF should include an increase in obligational authority sufficient to enable the Foundation to compensate for the cumulative effects of budgetary constraints among the agencies which fund parts of academic science. The amount budgeted for NSF should, as a minimum, be sufficient to maintain activity in academic science at its present level (without any expansion of the overall enterprise) but allowing for increases in real cost. These funds should be dispensed through

institutional grants that give the colleges and universities greater flexibility in meeting their individual needs.

If it should be decided to implement this recommendation to increase NSF funds, it should be made clear that this arrangement to enable NSF to act as a "gap-filler" is not intended to relegate NSF to this role permanently but that it is the first step, and the only one now feasible, toward the long-range goal of equipping NSF to play the role for which it was originally established.

Serious consideration should be given to placing NSF on a 3-year authorization and appropriation cycle.

B. CONTINUE AND STRENGTHEN THE EXISTING SYSTEM OF PLURALISTIC SUPPORT

1. Role of the mission-oriented agencies: The mission-oriented agencies should continue to finance academic research which is related to and a part of their missions. To the extent consistent with its mission, each of the agencies should use its authority and funds to strengthen academic institutions whenever this can be done without interfering with its primary responsibilities. The mission-oriented agencies should also continue to support the advanced training of people required for their missions.

The alternative of centralizing all or most support for academic science and advanced training in the sciences should be rejected because a decentralized system: (1) links support of science to national goals; (2) disperses and thereby strengthens support; (3) provides an essential underpinning for applied research, development, and testing; and (4) increases in the agencies and in Congress' sensitivity to the uses of science and technology in anticipating, creating, and solving important public problems. These values far outweight the gains to be expected from centralized administration and funding and should be preserved.

2. Enhance the flexibility of Federal support of colleges and universities: Essentially every study concerned with institutional "flexibility” in recent years has concluded that there is need for increasing the amount of money given to the institution to balance the effect of expanded project support. Therefore, in order to gain full advantage from the values of the project system of research support while minimizing the inflexibility that can accompany heavy reliance on project support, additional funds should be made available on an institutional basis for research-related activities which they select. Such activities might include

Provision of support for research that cannot yet be funded externally,

Provision of central research facilities not otherwise provided for support of new investigators,

Provision of a financial “shock absorber” when grants, contracts, training grants, or fellowships are unexpectedly curtailed

or terminated. Support of this type is already provided by NSF for the total science activities of institutions, but the funds provided are grossly inadequate to fulfill the functions that are suggested here and project funding dominates present doctrine. NIH makes similar grants, restricted

to the biomedical research sector, but available funds have never reached the levels authorized by Congress. The enlargement of this type of support would involve boosting the NSF and NIH budgets since basic legislative authority for institutional support already exists.

It must be emphasized that the key to successful use of institutional funding to alleviate imbalances created by project grants is the formula employed. Careful and detailed study of the broad area of general support of higher education is a necessity before any long-term action is taken.

3. Establish NSF as a prime source of Federal funds for academic science: As a long-range objective, NSF should provide the stable primary base of Federal support for academic science as the agency acquires the capacity to secure markedly higher and stable budgets. The mission-oriented agencies should continue to support academic science, but they should not be expected to provide broadly based support for academic science without regard to the limits set by their missions.

C. IMPROVE THE ADMINISTRATION OF FEDERAL ACADEMIC SCIENCE PROGRAMS

1. Reduce administrative inconsistencies: Much of the heat associated with academic science problems still comes from inconsistencies among Federal agencies in policies, procedures, and practices with respect to contract and grant administration including such matters as proposal content and format, terms and conditions of agreements, property and equipment title, and records requirements, and technical, financial, and administrative reporting. At little or no cost, steps to eliminate inconsistencies (not to establish rigid standardization) would do a great deal to restore the academic community's confidence that the Government understands and is concerned with the problems faced by the universities.

2. Cushion the shock of unexpected restriction of funds: All agencies should be instructed to take steps to minimize sudden termination of grants and contract support through arrangements to “phase out”: support over a reasonable period of time. The "step-funding" approach of the type used by NASA and the DOD Project Themis (a 3-year grant with 2 years initial funding on a 123–13 basis) is an example of such an arrangement. The precise devices that are needed and practicable will depend upon the circumstances facing each agency. This is difficult to achieve immediately without more NOA and, of course, it is not a protection against expenditure cuts.

3. Central administrative responsibility of the Bureau of the Budget: Responsibility for further progress should rest with the Bureau of the Budget, which should provide resources for continuing improvement of the important “nuts and bolts” aspects of Government-university relations in science.

The alternative of placing responsibility in a new agency ("a GSA for academic science”) has been discarded because the function is not broad enough or significant enough to warrant establishment of a new agency. The alternative of placing the function in OST was discarded because OST does not have the responsibility, management staff and

experience possessed by BOB, and because assumption of this responsibility by OST would reduce its capacity to perform its primary functions.

D. IMPROVE THE ORGANIZATION OF THE EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR SCIENCE AND

EDUCATION

Because of the gravity and urgency of policy questions relating to education and sicence and because there is now no point in the executive branch where these issues can be discussed and resolved effectively on a continuing institutionalized basis, it is concluded that a new, permanent grouping of functions is needed. Leadership and coordination of the departments and the establishment of policy for functions properly performed in a number of agencies can be effectively undertaken only in the Executive Office.

1. Alternative A.-Establish a statutory Council of Advisers on Education and Science: A Council of Advisers on Education and Science should be established by legislation. The members should be full-time Presidential appointees, as contrasted with part-time advisers (as in the case of the Presidential Science Advisory Committee) or representatives of departments and agencies (as in the case of the Space Council).

The central function of this group would be to provide a continuing institutional strong point in the Executive Office-a point which does not now exist—to help the President with policy matters involving education, science and technology, and their interrelationships. A central concern of the council would be with the kinds of complex problems relating to both education (particularly graduate education) and science (particularly academic science) noted earlier.

An important role for the Council would be to meet the urgent needs of Congress for an understanding of the facts and the position of the administration on national goals in science, technology, and education. It would report to various committees of Congress on the progress being made by both public and private bodies, and thereby contribute to the understanding in Congress. Although the council would not be responsible for carrying out programs, its relationship to the President, to the Bureau of the Budget, to Cabinet-level officers, and to Congress could be such that its influence would be substantial.

In more specific terms, it would be concerned with the problems that now concern OST, plus the central policy issues faced by the Federal Government with respect to education. It would advise with respect to support of institutions and support of students. On the science side, the new Council would be concerned with examination of the interactions of science with social development, international relations, technological advance and economic growth. It would study the mix of national investment in research, identify gaps, and evolve longrange science policy goals. A central concern of the Council would be the integration of policies with respect to support of graduate education and science.

PSAC would be retained. The Federal Council for Science and Technology would be needed also.

So far as operating methods are concerned, the Council would re

« PreviousContinue »