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I would hope that some time in the future, Mr. Chairman, that we might be able to submit to these gentlemen, like we have agreed in some of the other witnesses, some additional questions as they pop through our minds, because when we start fighting bells about this time we get a little jittery.
Mr. DADDARIO. Mr. Winn, I have also already made an aside to Mr. Carpenter, that these two papers are going to add considerably to his work.
Mr. WINN. Fine.
In the course of these hearings I sense almost a unanimous thought on the part of the witnesses, that some restructuring of our activities in this field is necessary and is desirable. It seems to tend toward a little more to vertical restructuring than a continuation of our horizontal structures.
The question is: Has your major thrust in these suggestions been with the idea that an agency could be created or restructured that would enable us to widely expand our efforts in this present field and be successful in getting better funding for what we are doing, or is your major thrust toward a more efficient use of our present level of funding?
I will leave that open to either of you.
Dr. SHANNON. I would be glad to start off. It is both, basically. But let me be very specific about a field that I really know in detail. Let's talk about biomedical science.
The staff may wish these figures. But I will read some of them.
The Federal Establishment in 1969 will have spent an estimated $1.677 billion. Now this is not as large as it seems because during the past 5 years wholly new areas have been established. Some of these deal with the health of the Nation; others do not. For example, there is now a large and vigorous research effort in the field of the delivery of health services. This is an operational research type of activity and very essential to the health of the Nation. On the other hand, there is also a new program in support of NASA's Apollo programs--actually at the level of something above $100 million. This makes little contribution to the health of the Nation. Importantly then, a good deal of increase in funds in this category is due to the addition of new functions. But the important point is that those dollars, the 1.6 billion, are being spent by io agencies and some of them in very substantial amounts for quite diverse purposes.
Now, NIH generally is commonly designated at the Federal instrument selected by the Congress and the executive branch to implement a program of biomedical research aimed at the conquest of disease. It spends about 55 percent of what can be covered by the term. Now, it knows generally the activities of other agencies in respect to their general programs. It does not know their 5-year projections and is only vaguely aware of their priorities. These are not usually available. The Congress puts together this $1.6 billion of new authorizations each year as the result of about 10 different appropriations actions. There is little regard for one area of science as compared to another. And in the biomedical area, there is no capability to view the aggregate activity and determine its likely net worth.
For example, the budget of NIH is estimated to be $887 million. If one estimates the total cost of research (this would include hospitalization and hidden laboratory support), my estimation of what the Department of Defense spends in biomedical research is $361 million; for the Veterans Administration this figure would be $151 million; for NASA it is $114 million.
Now, I hold that the primary goal of most of these expenditures is threefold: (1) the acquisition of new knowledge, (2) maintenance of a good educational system for the production of health personnel, and (3) the provision of a science base for a good health care system. Such simple objectives cannot be achieved effectively and economically within a framework of 10 different appropriation acts, each one taken in complete isolation from the others.
We haven't talked much about it, but an essential to the development of an effective council of advisors on science and education would bo the development of an information system that would provide the council with a series of critical analyses. These would not be simply a storage and retrieval of information on individual projects, but rather analyses of the thrust, the changing thrust of the overall effort, the problems, and the rate of progress toward the solution of those problems in relation to decisions on resource allocation. This is the type of material that would be furnished to this high level advisory group. It is hoped that out of the thoughtful consideration of such sets of information there would emerge a reasonably coherent program, instead of a chaotic scrambling for dollars by multiple agencies.
One matter that troubles me above all others in looking at various organizations for Federal science and which will not be solved by the creation of a department of science relates to this information function. I am convinced that what is required is nothing short of some high level central focus which can bring the sets of analyzed information together, analyzed to satisfy quite specific questions that are posed, and out of which can come judgments that relate to general goals and from the general goals, fairly explicit programs. This is a very essential part of the functions of this council we are talking about. It is not just setting up a "five wise men" who will make broad decisions. It is basically a mechanism to look deeply into both the aims and the aspirations, health, and vigor of our institutions that both produce our scientists and in no small measure contain the cutting edge of science, on the other; and both of these in relation to the needs of society.
What Dr. Bennett and I are proposing is really a radical innovative step. This is not a minor step.
Mr. Brown. Would the gentleman yield?
Mr. CABELL. I do want to say that I certainly concur with your analysis of that. I would like to qualify my question by saying that the implication was not that I think we could freeze expenditures at any one level.
Dr. SHANNON. No.
Mr. CABELL. Because every time we solve one question we create about five more, in this rapid development of scientific knowledge that we have now.
So I did not want to imply in my question that I thought it should be frozen at any predetermined level. That is impossible.
I am glad to yield to you, my colleague.
Mr. Brown. Well, your line of questioning raises in my mind a concept upon which I would like your comment.
It seems in more ways than one you are suggesting that it is at least as significant for accomplishment of our national purpose that we rationalize the process of goal-formulation and the flow of information necessary to achieve those goals, rather than rationalizing or fiddling around with organizational structure.
Dr. SHANNON. Yes, sir.
Mr. Brown. You are talking about the structure and flow of information to a decisionmaking point where it can be effectively acted upon. Dr. SHANNON. Yes, sir. Mr. CABELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. DADDARIO. Further questions, Mr. Brown? Mr. BROWN. No. Mr. DADDARIO. Mr. Symington? Mr. SYMINGTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Of course it would be helpful to me at some point, perhaps now is not the time, to have a better understanding of the current interrelationship of the Office of Science and Technology, the Federal Council, Science Adviser, PSAC, and all these groups which are apparently advising somebody or some institution. But can we take it from the testimony this morning that the two witnesses essentially agree that an additional mechanism is required, as Dr. Shannon mentioned at page 6, “Nonoperating in character, legislatively established, which would, in some fashion, try to, on the one hand, reconcile the various competing science interests in the country and, on the other hand, explain decisions of the Executive to the Congress"—is that what both of you are saying?
Dr. SHANNON. I think so. At least it is what I am saying.
There is one point that I made that I think is quite important. That is that one could assign the additional responsibility for this educational policymaking to the Office of Science and Technology, but if one did this there would be a strong coloration, at least publicly, that this is all science and technology. But by creating a new mechanism that encompasses all of the concerns, I think that one would avoid any such accusation.
Mr. SYMINGTON. Dr. Bennett, you mentioned that the Federal Council would be retained, PSAC retained, possibly the Office of Science and Technology would be merging into the new mechanism with its director becoming the chairman of this statutory council, if you go that route.
Dr. Shannon, is it your understanding that these existing councils would continue on under your concept or not?
Dr. SHANNON. Generally speaking, with one marked difference, I would-you see, the present head of the Office of Science and Technology is the President's Science Adviser. I think it would be most
unwise to impose any limitation on that position. This is an essential position in our society as I see it, and should be a well-staffed position for and of itself, for personal advice that he can give the President. As I have seen the operation of that office, the Science Adviser to the President is a very busy man. I think he has to be totally on call to the President whatever he may wish him for. So I would visualize an independent head for this Council. It is sufficiently important to warrant the full-time occupation of, I would say, five to six very distinguished people, not distinguished in terms of their gray hairs but in terms of their capability of understanding the major thrust of science and its reflection in our universities and the relationship of this to the general educational enterprise and to society at large. This is going to be a rough enough job itself, as is that of the President's adviser. I would oppose melding the positions.
Dr. BENNETT. I would just like to add, Mr. Symington, that the President's Science Advisory Committee has a very limited responsibility. I happen to be a member of it at the present time. My colleagues might not agree entirely with that statement, but it is my view. We serve in a part-time capacity, and PSAC is mentioned in my testimony only for the sake of completeness and not because either the President's Science Advisory Committee or the Federal Council would obstruct the plan that I have suggested. They do exist, and I simply wanted to indicate that there was no intention to do away with them, because they do have certain duties and responsibilities which they fulfill reasonably well. They certainly would not be a substitute for anything that has been suggested in addition.
Mr. SYMINGTON. Thank you.
Mr. DADDARIO. Well, gentlemen, there are a whole series of areas of opportunity which you have opened up for us. I am extremely pleased by the contributions you have made here today, which at the moment seems to point out that the work of this committee is really just beginning at this time and will necessitate a great deal of further activity, which has become more and more apparent to me as the hearings have gone on, and will most likely call for us to continue these hearings beyond the period of time presently contemplated.
I do hope that we might not only forward further questions to you, which we will, but that if we might also have the opportunity to discuss informally with you not only some of those questions as they have arisen here today but others which will come about as we analyze not only the recommendations you have made but recommendations that have been made and those which will follow in the time ahead, prior to the time when this committee will reach its final judgment on what recommendations it will make.
Dr. SHANNON. Be delighted, sir.
(Questions submitted by the subcommittee to Dr. James A. Shannon :)
Question 1. It is common knowledge that the National Science Foundation has always had difficulty selling itself to Congress and the American public. What positive steps can you suggest that the Foundation might take to improve its image, extend its constituency, and secure the funds corresponding to a national policy of continued preeminence for U.S. science?
Answer 1. The answer to this question requires first an appraisal of the root cause or causes of the inability of the National Science Foundation to establish itself as a major agency in the continued preeminence of the United States in science and technology. A basic flaw in the approach of NSF to this desirable objective, in my mind, stems from the manner in which it has defined its own mission. NSF defines its mission as one with the primary responsibility to support "basic research.” It then defines "basic research” as that type of research, regardless of field, which is undertaken because of the intrinsic interest of a scientist in furthering an area of science without regard for the utility of the product of his endeavors.
Such a general description of "mission” tends to weaken the view that the aggregate activity of the agency has social utility, and that the agency has a capability of defining special science areas that warrant support and special consideration. Consequently, there has arisen doubt that the agency as a whole has social utility such as would warrant the expenditure of substantial tax dollars.
The concept that, in addition to supporting a substantial segment of this “basic research," NSF can also serve as a balance wheel for the federal support of "basic research” is largely self-defeating within such a setting. The balance wheel concept requires that the agency concerned assess the ongoing national effort, arrive at judgments of need, and set its programs to fill in these needs so as to produce a "balanced program.” Such an appraisal demands making judgments on social utility of research as well as scientific feasibilty of projects. It also implies creating priorities within the NSF programming process which will emphasize some program areas as compared with others.
Actually, except for some large programs concerned with the development of specialized research resources such as telescopes, accelerators, etc., the program of NSF has largely evolved as the result of project pressures. These latter are generated by the accumulated project grant applications, each of which by definition has no special social and, therefore, understandable purpose. The nonutility of the program, in the eyes of its detractors, has been further emphasized by the use of bizarre and, at time, trivial project titles.
It has seemed to many observers that the attitudes which underly NSF program development are self-defeating and are, at the same time, an inappropriate basis for a sound support program for what many would prefer to call “fundamental" rather than "basic" research. In this view, fundamental research has the general characteristics of inquiries that develop new knowledge in a given field, but with the possibility of broader implications to collateral fields of endeavor. It can be described as the type of undifferentiated research which is the essential underpinning of progressive higher education. Essential in this sense really means essential, i.e., in the absence of which higher education will become a sterile, rote process.
Within such viewpoints, it becomes possible to view chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics, for example, in terms of what they now contribute in the applied and developmental areas. Derivative of such considerations emerge concepts of the most likely, lively and productive fields and the possibilities of the ultimate contribution of these fields to the satisfaction of broadly defined societal needs.
Even such fields as classical biology that may be pursued under the heading of ecology have meaning in such an examination. But the ultimate meaning is derived from an appreciation of the influence of an increasingly hostile environment upon an essentially balanced biosphere.
Similarly, the complex and very fundamental studies of the kinetics of chemical reactions, pursued effectively at very high dilution of reactants in a gaseous phase, begin to have societal significance in understanding the development of noxious products in the environment, e.g., the influence of ultra violet light on the production of peroxides and the influence of these on potential reactants in the upper atmosphere, and the releation of these to the practical problems of smog. And one could go further.
Much of the work in the field of molecular biology, be this related to proteins or other large molecules, to enzyme kinetics, to NDA, RNA, and related compounds, has relevance to such diverse fields in viruses; plan, animal, or human genetics. These fields in turn must be explored further in the applied aspects of biology in the elucidation of problems of human disease and susceptibility to disease; of cancer; of human nutrition; etc. And one could go on.