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The tightness of Federal funds for academic science has made more urgent an increase in the capacity of colleges and universities to set policy and make decisions of two types. The first is to establish general institutional goals which place academic research soundly in the context of the total array of functions of the institution. The second is to reach a sound balance between two important goals that are difficult to reconcile on the one hand maintenance of economy, efficiency, accountability and order, and on the other hand maintenance of the important values of academic freedom for schools, departments and individuals. This is primarily a problem for the institutions themselves, but their task can be made easier by proper Federal policy.
The capacity of institutions to adapt has already been reduced by the preceding lean years and continued lack of growth in Federal support of academic science research will affect programs of higher quality and scientists of higher competence. Maintenance of the existing level of support of current projects and established investigation will be at the expense of support of new investigators.
The desirability of using federal research funds to strengthen the total academic science system of the nation by helping new centers to develop has been widely recognized. This was a central theme of the President's memorandum of September 13, 1965, to heads of departments and agencies on Strengthening Academic Capability for Science Throughout the Country, and his statement to the Cabinet of September 14, 1965. However, it has become clear that the existing system was not an adequate means, even when funds for academic science were growing, of develping new centers of high quality for academic science. The approach to be effective must be more broadly based if there is to be a substantial expansion of the number of institutions which are first-rate centers for academic science. When funds for academic science are limited, very little can be done to expand the system.
The responsibility of the National Science Foundation "for augmenting the research capabilities of academic institutions in all fields of science through the support of basic research and research facilities and through measures for improving the quality of education in the sciences" has not been matched by Congressional willingness to make sufficient resources available for this "balancing” responsibility, the magnitude of which is defined, in large measure, by the demands of the other agencies upon the universities. NSF will be unable to carry out its responsibilitiles without sizeable budget increases.
A major effect of the existing system for support of academic science has been to increase the need for highly qualified faculty. Much of this expansion of graduate education has been initiated independently but in the expectation that the Federal Government will continue its support for two key segments of the enterprise-provision of research funds and of support for advanced students. This expectation was recognized in President Johnson's education message to the Congress, The Fifth Freedom, on February 5, 1968:
"As never before, we look to the lleges and universities to their faculties; laboratories; research institutes and study centers-for help with every problem of our society and with the efforts we are making toward peace in the world .
“First, we should increase the Federal payment available to help graduate schools meet the cost of educating a student who has earned a Federal Fellowship. At present, Federal Fellowship programs are actually deepening the debt of the graduate schools because this payment is too low.
“Second, we should launch a new program to strengthen those graduate schools with clear potential for higher quality.
"With enrollments growing, we must begin to enlarge the capacity of graduate schools. This program will underwrite efforts to strengthen faculties, improve courses, and foster excellence in a wide range of fields.
8 "New Starts" required to finance the research of younger investigators are particularly hard hit when budgets are cut, or even when the rate of increase decreases. This is because most agencies commit funds for a number of years in order to provide stable support. Accordingly, only a fraction of the funds in any year is available for new starts. Cuts in budgets can practically eliminate new starts, since to reprogram any appreciable portion of funds already committed involves dismantling ongoing programs. Some agencies are deliberately setting aside funds to support new investigators and new ideas, but this requires cutting off support already committed to other worthwhile research.
“Third, I urge the Congress to increase government-sponsored research in our universities. The knowledge gained through this research truly is powerpower to heal the sick, educate the young, defend the nation, and improve
the quality of life for our citizens." 2. In the context of Higher Education. We shift now to a new problem-the relationship between the existing system of Federal support for academic science and the emerging Federal programs for broader support of higher education. To a substantial degree, as previously mentioned, 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 “adequacy" of the existing Federal system for support of academic science are really directed to the more fundamental question of the nature of the responsibilities of the Federal Government for the support of universities, and particularly for support of graduate education.
The constrained Federal academic science budgets of the past four years have hastened recognition of the fact that the present structure is unresponsive to: emerging demands to serve a new and different purpose-support 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 opportunity 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 universitics while budgets were still increasing.
It is now quite evident that forging a new and more logical relationship between Federal support for academic science and the emerging Federal role in support of higher education totally is a major task for the next decade. This process will require major changes in approach in the structure of the executive branch and in legislation over a wide front. This overall policy area is more significant and far less well defined than the policy questions relating to academic science as a discrete problem. C. Needs and Problems
1. More Money for Academic Science.-While the 20% per year increases in federal funds for academic science cannot be reasonably expected in the future, it is important to point out that substantial additional funding for academic science will be required from year to year if academic science and the universities are to fulfill their roles in performing research for the mission agencies and in producing the skilled manpower which the nation requires. Furthermore, there is a need for an immediate increase in resources available to the universities: if the disruption and disarray created by the abrupt cutbacks now being experienced are to be ameliorated. For the long run, this is a question that can be resolved only if there are sustained increases in funds for academic science for all major federal agencies at a reasonable, moderate rate. For the immediate future, the problems generated by particularly sharp reductions in expenditures by the National Science Foundation are most acute. The responsibility of the National Science Foundation "for augmenting the research: capabilities of academic institutions in all fields of science through the support of basic research and research facilities and through measures for improving the quality of education in the sciences" must be matched by Congressional willingness to make sufficient resources available for this "balancing" responsibility, the magnitude of which is defined in large measure by the demands of the other agencies upon the universities. Even with this new authority, NSF" will be unable to perform the function without sizeable budget increases.
2. More Than Money.--Additional funding alone, however, within the existing pattern and under existing policies will merely postpone rather than solve the problems of administration of Federal academic science research programs.
Many problems, major and minor can be identified within the system that has evolved for federal support of academic science. These include (not in order of importance) :
(a) inconsistencies among agencies in policies, procedures, and practices in day-to-day dealings with institutions. These are major sources of dissatisfaction and irritation and have come to have an important "symbolic" significance.
(6) Basic differences in philosophy as to the proportion of the cost of academic research projects that should be borne by the Federal Government when it finances a project. (The "cost sharing” problem.)
(c) The problems raised by the pressure of many mission agencies to narrow the range of their support of academic research as a result of continuing budgetary constraints or changes in their mission needs.
(d) The problem that these actions by the mission agencies cause NSF in trying to "fill the vacuum."
(e) The need for agencies to allow universities the maximum flexibility in administering limited funds.
(f) The repeatedly recognized need for sustained, flexible, long-run institutional support to minimize the disruptions produced by fluctuations in project support. 3. New Policy and New Structure for Academic Science. The existing policy structure for academic science in Federal Government can best be described as as loose network lacking a prime mover and without a strong center for longrange planning or evaluation. The resources for academic science in any given year are decided pluralistically, in a variety of mission contexts, and the result aggregate is largely an after-the-fact outcome. Present support is fractionated and there is no really effective focus of responsibility. Agencies have introduced several programs calculated to cope with the problem as they visualize it but they are not effectively meshed and they do not respond adequately to the national need to assure that institutional capability in science will be sustained in the long range.
In sum, there is a need for a better focus of organizational responsibility and a system for fuller, prospective, “horizontal consideration of the budgetary requirements of academic science among the programs of the many agencies which are involved in utilizing the resources of the universities. There is also a critical need to establish better communication with the public and the Congress on all of the major points that have been mentioned.
Finally, there is a need for a better system for examining and setting ultimate goals. These have been well stated by Don K. Price: *
“We have to learn how to support an educational and scientific establishment including private as well as public institutions, without either destroying its freedom or leaving it in a position of privileged irresponsibility. We have to learn how to fit the research interests of free scientists into a pattern of public policy and to take account of the need for balanced national development while building up our existing centers of high scientific quality. And we need, equally obviously, to devote our knowledge to the service of human welfare, as effectively as it has been enlisted in the service of national defense."
The author believes that now is the time for a change in organizational responsibility for academic science because :
even partial steps toward greater recognition of the value of academic science to the nation would send out a signal of considerable importance.
the timing is right, coming as it does during a period of "marking time" in support of science, criticism of the government for lukewarm interest, and attendant disarray in government- university relationships.
conventional inertia within the existing governmental structure, based on doctrines concerning roles, missions, and jurisdictions, makes it exceedingly difficult to graft new responsibilities for planning, evaluation, and com
munication onto the present machinery. 4. New Means of Reconciling Goals for Academic Science and Higher Education.—The existing arrangements for evolving strategies for academic science or for appraising the interaction of the natural sciences with the humanities and social sciences are inadequate. The present arrangement displays only ad hoc
7 Page 38 in Orlans, H. (ed). Science Policy and the University, Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. 1968.
organization for communication and consultation within the federal components of the system and externally with academic institutions and their intermedians. Under the theory that has prevailed until now, advance consultation among agencies to adjust proposed actions that will affect higher education and academic science should be effective. It is quite evident, however, that consultation of this sort will be less and less effective in producing significant alterations in the prospective situation, and particularly in coping with the large-scale problem of securing a good fit between federal programs for academic science and other programs affecting universities, particularly at the graduate level. There has been much interagency consultation on major actions affecting academic science, but even in this area, effective action is limited. Timely results are hard to derive from interagency consultation because the power of decision is dispersed among many points and levels in the large agencies. Finally, the mission agencies have statutory authority to modify their programs in the interest of strengthening academic science only within very narrow limits.
When the broader question of reconciling goals, emphasis, purpose, and relations between various programs for academic science and for more general support of higher education is considered, it becomes evident that the machinery is even rudimentary. Two weak interagency committees, the Federal Interagency Committee on Education and the Committee on Academic Science and Engineering of the Federal Council for Science and Technology, provide the only institutionalized means of dealing with these questions.
The climate has changed rapidly and now includes: budgeting constraints; rising costs of performing research; multiplying problems at the interface of academic science and higher education in general; pressures for equalization in distribution of limited funds for academic science and institutional support; increasing institutional needs for assurance in long-term planning; and frustration and friction arising from inadequate government-university communications.
It is time to strengthen the federal organization for planning, balancing, and communication between the function of supporting academic science and the emerging federal function of general support for higher education. Therefore, any structural remedy must go beyond a concern for academic science alone and place research and education in a unified perspective.
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 Three-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, etc.) were laid out for three 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 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. If projections were conservative, representing a sort of minimum federal guarantee, false hopes for the future should be replaced by realistic programming within the universities. Any change would probably be an add-on and the plan could be extended year by year. Such a plan would provide an opportunity to restate each year the rationale for federal support of academic science and would provide a vehicle for better informing the Congress 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 back-up.
Each major agency should prepare a three-year indicative plan for support of academic science as a guide to its actions and as part of a wider plan.
BOB and OST should, in consultation with the major agencies concerned, prepare a three-year indicative plan for federal support of academic science for the fiscal year 1971 budget and every year thereafter.
The establishment of this planning process should be explicitly noted in a Presidential message to the Congress.
2. Increase the Budget of the National Science Foundation.--Both to deal with the present emergency 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 leval (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. NSF is already making such grants on a small scale and the authority and administrative structure exist for an expansion of the existing puny program.
If it should be decided to implement this recommendation to increase NSF funds, administration's announcement should make it 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. There should also be some reference to the future when total federal support for academic science will again begin to expand but at more modest rates than those prevailing before 1966.
Serious consideration should be given to persuading the relevant Congressional committees that NSF should be placed 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 outweigh the gains to be expected from centralized administra
tion and funding and should be preserved. 2. Enhance the Flexibility of Federal Support of Colleges and Universities.Essentially every study concerned with institutional “fleribility” 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
8 See, for example :
Quality and Equality: Nero Levels of Federal Responsibility for Higher Education, Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, 1968.
Recommendations for National Action Affecting Higher Education, American Association of State Colleges and Universities and National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, 1969.
Toward a Public Policy for Graduate Education in the Sciences, National Science Board, National Science Foundation, 1969.
Graduate Education: Parameters for Public Policy, National Science Board, National Science Foundation, 1969.
The Crisis of the Medical Schools, Commonwealth Fund and Carnegie Corporation, 1967.