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CHAPEL HILL, N.C., May 8, 1969. Hon. E. Q. DADDARIO, Chairman, Science Subcommittee of Committee on Science and Astronautics,
House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. DEAR MR. DADDARIO : I read with much interest the part of a lecture given by you at Washington University and which was published in the Congressional Record of 4 March 1969, pages E1581-1582.
Over the years I have had a chance to look at scientific research and research management from three different points of view, first as professor, later Head of Department of a large university, then as member and later Vice-Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Panel to the Secretary of the Army, and now as Director of the Division of Environmental Sciences of the Army Research Office-Durham. I am writing this as a private citizen.
I fully agree with you that "an overall science czar or a single super-bureau created to govern all Federal science endeavors" is not the answer to our problems. The problems are far to diverse to put them into the hands of one individual heading up a monolithic organization. Besides, there are far too many dangers in such a concentration of power. I also fully agree that organizational considerations should not be limited to what sometimes is referred to as "science with a capital S.” The socio-economic effects—immediate or future of progress in “science” must be better studied and evaluated than they have thus far, and therefore the social sciences and aspects of the humanities should be part of any future organization. I also agree than any new organizational structure should be responsible at least to a certain degree. I would add that the structure should be as simple and elastic as feasible.
Insofar as the approaches mentioned by you are concerned, I do not believe that "science organization” should be considered exclusively from an administrative point of view. The nature of the various sciences—the term used here in the widest sense of the word—and their roles in relation to technological development and society differ far too much. There are the well-known differences between the physical sciences and the social sciences, but there are also, to give only one other example, the less well-known fundamental differences between mathematics, physics and chemistry on one hand, and the biological, terrestrial and atmospheric sciences on the other hand.
Identification of major problem areas in basic scientific research is very difficult and hazardous, as no brain or even collection of brains is big enough and can have a sufficiently penetrating view of the future to be able to make a faultless decision as to what exactly are the major problem areas to which basic research should be subordinated and what the priorities should be.
If a single organization-to-be should include not only basic research, but also applied research, development, technology in general, education and “cultural affairs”, I am afraid it might get bogged down in a mish-mash of purposes and little beneficial result would ensue. Of course, all the fields enumerated are interconnected, and relationships between them should never be lost sight of, but for this a monolithic organization is not required.
The innovating role and the possible ameliorating role of basic scientific research in the wildest sense of the word (i.e. embracing the physical sciences, the social sciences and appropriate portions of the humanities) both flow largely from the professorial and graduate levels in our universities, from non-profit and other research organizations and from basic research in the Federal Government. In the universities the real education and training of future scientists take place at these levels. Therefore, these levels should be of primary concern.
Other aspects besides basic research do, of course, need to be considered and included, but perhaps in a manner as discussed below.
Among the leading current possibilities mentioned by you No. 4 is the most interesting to me. However, a unitary council of this type would very likely suffer from the plethora and eventual mish-mash of purposes mentioned above. It seems to me that what the Russians, I believe, call a “troika” arrangement might be most practical.
Such a three-fold set-up could consist of:
(a) One group to deal with all aspects of basic research in the universities at professorial and graduate levels, with basic research in non-profit and other research organizations, with basic research in appropriate subdivisions of the L'.S. Government, and with higher education at the graduate level.
(b) A second group to deal with applied research, early phases of development and with technology in general.
(c) A third group to deal with all undergraduate aspects of higher education and their relationships to the education and training of our future scientists in the widest meaning of the term. Between (a) and (b) there should be a liaison officer with a minimum staff. There also should be a liaison officer with a minimum staff between (c) and (a) plus (b) on the one hand, and education at junior college and high school levels. In essence, education at these lower levels should remain the major concern of the Office of Education.
The top part of the organization could consist of the 3 chairmen of (a), (b), (c), with the 2 liaison officers as ex officio non-voting members. The functions of the “Council” could be primarily leading and correlative, but whatever functions and responsibilities it would have should be circumscribed clearly.
“Current possibility” (1) does not appeal to me at all, partly—as it would lead to the creation of a Department-for major reasons cited above. A more specific objection is that the managing of the 8 units enumerated would bring together some rather incompatible bedfellows.
The Na al Science Foundation is supposed to be of ser ce the support of research in a general way, although it still has an overriding bias toward science with a capital S.
Basic research in the others, and supported by the others, should serve more specific purposes, namely to underpin applied research and early stages of development proper to their own functions. One of the functions of a “Council” could be to see to it that basic research within each of these 7, and support by each of these 7, is kept within reasonable limits.
In the Army there is in-house research (Army laboratory research) and grant and contract research. The research carried on in the laboratories usually is more of an applied nature and may be connected directly with special developments, although some laboratories do also in-house basic research and/or support outside basic research. The Army Research Office has as a major function the support of outside basic research via grants or contracts. Basic research is necessary to feed into applied research, and in this manner such “supported outside research” is of immediate, near-future or farther-future aid to the Army laboratories. It is customary to ask Army laboratories for advice on the degree of relevance of basic research proposal to the work of each of the specific laboratories and/or to that of the Army as a whole. Proposals for basic research that show little or no relationship to the Army scope of interest are usually referred to other organizations, such as the more general National Science Foundation. Nevertheless, the proposals that are accepted, being in the field of basic research, may pay off in many ways, not only for the Army laboratories, but frequently in a far more important manner for strictly non-military purposes. I could give a number of illustrations right from my own “shop."
1 Our universities and 4-year colleges have developed into highly dualistic institutions. They now are to provide education and training for very large numbers of students who never will become full-fledged professional scientists (this word again used in its widest meaning), and many of whom do not survive the first 2 years during which requirements are mostly of a general nature. On the whole, only during the junior and senior years can the student make a beginning of study in a professional field, if he wishes to do so. The real education and training of future scientists lie in the M.A. and Ph. D. years or their equivalent.
Some such relevance should (and probably does) exist in proposals for outside basic research submitted to the 7 organizations listed by you under "current possibilities” (1).
There is no question in my mind that an improved organization of basic and other forms of research is a highly desirable thing. However, the nature of the animal is such that too close a rein might do more damage than no reins at all. Sincerely yours,
WILLIAM VAN ROYEN.
Flaggstaff, Ariz., June 30, 1969. Hon. EMILIO Q. DADDARIO, Chairman, House Science Subcommittee, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
DEAR CONGRESSMAN DADDARIO : The recent action of the House to cut 80 million dollars from the fund request of the National Science Foundation will be met with great concern and misgivings by scientists and educators throughout the country. They will also note with gratitude and satisfaction your remarks on behalf of the National Science Foundation and its growing responsibilities.
As a research astronomer whose work is largely supported by NFS grants, and whose career includes positions in the academic field, the U.S. Civil Service, and a private research facility, I have given considerable thought to what I think would be the proper role of our Government in the funding and administering of basic research.
I believe that scientists and managers of scientific activities are themselves largely responsible for the reduction in government research funds that confronts them now and probably in the immediate future. The abundance of money available to the physical sciences during much of the post-Sputnik period has brought into basic research the tendency to simply use money, not ingenuity, in solving problems, to purchase solutions, rather than to accomplish them. People rushed into research not always because it offered intellectual challenge, but because it promised above-average pay.
Personal research has often given way to team projects and systems operations that may be impressive when measured by the number of people they employ and by the amounts of money they devour, but that are failures when judged by their results. Capable scientists have become incapable, bungling managers, accepting responsibilities for which they usually have no training and often no talent.
Numerous “research laboratories” and “scientific establishments” have been created and are being sustained in government departments, notably within the Department of Defense, which, aside from often being hardly necessary or justifiable, are in many instances administered strictly in the spirit of the Civil Service hierarchy—with subordination being the order of the day and empire building the ultimate goal.
I believe that the time has come when funding and administering of basic research by the Federal Government should largely be divorced from any of the existing departments and instead coordinated and consolidated within a single, new department of Cabinet rank. Such a new department does not have to be limited to caring for the physical sciences alone, but may well be broad enough in its scope to include the social sciences and the arts as well. The National Science Foundation might provide one nucleus for such a new department. The Government's interest in science and in the arts should not, as is often the case, be judged and measured merely by the amount of money it spends, but mostly by the manner in which it allocates and administers these funds. A single Department for the Arts and Sciences could avoid duplication of efforts (and expenditures) where such duplication is unnecessary, it could encourage it whenever it may seem desirable. But most of all, it could and should be firm in its insistence that results produced be commensurate in quantity and quality with the funds expended.
I am convinced that greater centralization of effort at the highest level of government, coupled with some shift of emphasis from the managed (or often mismanaged) large scale team work to individual research, stimulated and guided by personal interest, involvement and dedication, will help us cope with the problem of the high and ever rising cost of science. I also believe that arts, science, and education in the United States may well reach new levels of competence and excellence if we accept and welcome the challenge of learning how to spend less money more wisely than we may have done in recent years. Respectfully yours,
OTTO G. FRANZ.
BAYSIDE, N.Y., July 2, 1969. Hon. EMILIO Q. DADDARIO, Chairman, Subcommittee on Science, Research, and Development, Committee on
Science and Astronautics, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. DEAR MR. DADDARIO: I recently received a copy of the May 29, 1969 report entitled, “Centralization of Federal Science Activities.” This was prepared at your request by the Science Policy Research Division of the Library of Congress. I have reviewed the report and wish to submit some comments.
It is a well-written and documented report which examines both sides of the issue—a centralized science organization vs. the diffuse types of science agencies. In my opinion, the case for a centralized form of organization is incontrovertible. The benefits to be derived by the Federal Government and the people of the United States from a centralized science department far exceed any shortcomings that may arise in the course of its activities.
I was particularly impressed with Part IIC (page 14), “Liaison with the Scientific Community," and VIB (page 66), “Liaison,” and more importantly with the last sentence of Part IIH, “Exchange of Science Information," on page 15 of the report. This states: "The planning and coordination of government-wide research programs require immediate knowledge of ongoing research projects prior to the normal publication which follows the completion of the work.”
This statement is the crux of any R&D program. The technical data and findings must be delivered as soon as generated to those scientists and engineers who require this information, in order to solve the problems with which they are confronted.
It is in the above context that I wish to call your attention to an organization within the Department of the Air Force—The Air Force Systems Command's Scientific and Technical Liaison Office-which is concerned with the immediate transfer and exchange of scientific and technical knowledge as it is generated. Attachments 1 and 2 are papers describing this organization, presenting its mission, functions, and its interfacing between the Air Force and the industrial and scientific community. A prime purpose of this organization includes the immediate transfer of scientific and technical information generated by the community in independent research and development programs, to appropriate scientists and engineers in the Air Force. This objective is in direct consonance with the committee's report on the implications inherent in the Federal support of science and technology.
Unfortunately, due to budgetary and manpower constrictions, the Air Force Scientific and Technical Liaison Offices are due to be phased out by the end of September (Attachment 3). Recognizing that the Department of the Air Force was faced with a dilemma in addressing itself to national budgetary restrictions, it seems rather paradoxical that one element of the government emphasizes the importance of liaison with the scientific community in the exchange of science information, while another element of the government is in some measure eliminating these roles. In Attachment 4, there is a proposal for maintaining a viable Air Force liaison organization during the period of budgetary restrictions. However, it appears that even this minimum cost proposal will not be implemented. The effects of the discontinuance of this Air Force organization will be detrimental to the exchange of scientific and technical information, particularly with reference to ongoing research and development programs of the Small Business community, as well as those of large R&D industrial organizations.
The Scientific and Technical Liaison Offices can serve as an immediate nucleus for the formation of a national liaison organization or a government interagency liaison organization in the exchange and transfer of ongoing, current, undocumented technological information. Should the personnel of the Liaison Offices be dissipated, it will take considerable time, effort, and expenditure of funds to revitalize an effective organization and reestablish a liaison rapport with the industrial and scientific community.
It is interesting to note that Dr. H. Heffner, who has been appointed the Deputy to Dr. Lee Du Bridge at the Office of Science and Technology, is a former Scientific Liaison Officer for the Office of Naval Research. Very truly yours,
MORTON M. PAVANE. (Attachments are in committee files.)
PERFORMANCE RESEARCH, INC.,
Washington, D.C., August 5, 1969. Hon. EMILIO Q. DADDARIO, Congress of the United States, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. DADDARIO: Thank you for sending me the copy of the report “Centralization of Federal Science Activities” prepared by the Science Policy Research Division of the Library of Congress. I would like now to share with you a few of my reactions to it.
Since the words "science and research" have many meanings I should point out that my frame of reference is that of a social scientist who has been on the receiving end of government grants and contracts for the last ten years. Part of the time I was in several of the sponsored research groups which work at George Washington University, and part of the time I have been with a small corporation.
One of my first concerns is with the tortuous route which must currently be followed to obtain government funds. Research organizations follow one or two routes: 1) the request for a proposal (RFP), and 2) the unsolicited proposal. The RFP is particularly wasteful because there is usually only one winner out of a rather large number of bidders. Frequently there are twenty or thirty proposals, and one recent OEO RFP attracted over 100 proposals, with each bidder having spent several thousand dollars in preparing his proposal. The cost of preparing proposals is eventually passed on to the federal government through higher overhead rates, but it is a poor way of doing business. There are many abuses in this system and, as a result, researchers often avoid the RFP route, prefering to work through the chinks and crannies of the agencies with the unsolicited proposal. This is the favorite route of the smaller research organization, which seems to fare especially poorly in submitting RFP's. While this system seems to work a little better, researchers still find that there are large numbers of projects competing for a rather limited amount of money. With more centralized control I fear we would have fewer chinks and crannies to work through, and more RFP's.
There is a second feature of the current system which is poor and which would become even poorer with more centralized control, namely, that federal administrators feel they must develop programs of research. The obvious disadvantage of the administrator's program is, that once set, any proposed research which does not fall within the program is apt to be excluded. In this connection we are still patiently awaiting the departure of some administrators who date as far back as the Kennedy Administration, so that meaningful research in their areas can start again. This situation of course leads to a decline in the diversity of research, particularly research in new areas or in inter-disciplinary areas which do not correspond with a program the administrator has thought about.
But an even more serious problem is that a great deal of what passes for research is not research at all. In the social sciences for example, we have hundreds of studies which make evaluations of various agency programs or projects that do not contribute to our understanding of social processes. Instead these studies provide a kind of measuring service for agencies, specific to one program for a certain group of citizen's with certain kinds of problems. Valuable though these studies may be for the operation of these agencies, they are deflecting the attention of scientists away from a more imaginative look at our social problems.
And lastly I would like to turn to the matter of dissemination of our research findings which is already woefully inadequate and which, if we had even more centralized control, would become even more inadequate. Part of the problem is that we have fewer studies that make concise journal articles, and more that make longer reports. In the social sciences we have organizations like the Science Information Exchange of the Smithsonian or ERIC of the U.S. Office of Education. If a researcher has a well known topic he stands a good chance of being able to get a bibliography through these organizations, but with a less known topic his chances are almost nil. When these organizations are able to identify studies which are relevant to a topic, the best they can provide is an abstract.