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as has been discussed earlier, was an issue on which some committee members focused to bring about a reversal in U.S. policy. Unfortunately, the PSAC group suffered from the faults of a high-level advisory body. It could air the problem and make recommendations but it had no operating function. It was organized too late to encourage the research which could have swung the balance in favor of an effective test-detection system in 1958 when the Geneva talks were critical.
The PSAC experts soon discovered that politics was much more influential in government poli than phys They found that they could reach general agreement, for example, on the matter of canceling the ANP project (Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion), but this was technical advice which was hard for a politician to swallow when the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy fought for its pet. For years Joint Committeemen like Senator Jackson and Congressman Mel Price had been gifted with a vision that saw ANP flying in a year or so; they seemed to have special intelligence of a competitive Soviet nuclear bomber. In the collision of science and politics over such an issue as ANP the obvious tactic for the President was to stall. Finally under President Kennedy the atomic airplane was canceled, but not before a billion dollars had been spent.
How political should a PSAC scientist be? Should he give advice on the basis of how he interprets “the national good”? Should he take an academic view of a technical problem or should he season this with a sense of political reality? It would seem that the name of the President's committee identifies the primary qualification of its members as scientific experts. Since they serve an advisory capacity, their environment can produce an awareness of political factors. The latter is easily imparted by good staff liaison work or by the simple fact that almost every PSAC member had a background of experience in dealing with bureaucracy. The President has his own political advisers and it would appear that the prime function of the PSAO group would be to give advice on scientific and technical merit of various projects, proposals, and programs. The presence on the PSAC group of members like Detlev Bronk and Jerome Wiesner injected more than a few grains of political salt into the committee's deliberations.
The preponderance of physical scientists on PSAC raised the question of how representative it was of American science. Was not the committee overweighted against, say, the field of biological science? But this was not the basic question. Even if all the sciences were to be allocated membership on PSAC by some numerical relationship, there would still remain the same question which has been raised with regard to the National Academy of Sciences. How could PSAÇ claim to be representative of U.S. science?
The PSAC problem was even more vexing than that posed for the Academy because the latter had a multitude of committees and advisory groups and could be reckoned as more representative than a single eighteen-man committee. If we look upon PSAC as a potent priesthood of science, we may inquire into the means by which PSAC divines what the general assembly of U.S. scientists thinks about the state of science. The PSAC members are extremely stuffy about discussing their committee deliberations; I have had difficulty finding any scientists who have been solicited for an opinion by PSAC members. The committee holds eleven two-day sessions each year but only occasionally does the outside world learn what transpires in PSAC. Usually this communication takes the form of a published report of a task force, but these are few and far between. The first such was a brief report, "Introduction to Outer Space," dated March 28, 1958, which was fairly colorless as a policy statement but did contain one warning: "It would not be in the national interest to exploit space science at the cost of weakening our efforts in other scientific endeavors. This need not happen if we plan our national program for space science and technology as part of a balanced effort in all science and technology." Can one inspect the current R & D budget and find evidence of the balance which PSAC recommended ? In fact, what kind of over-all balanced program did PSAC have in mind? There is no published record of any PSAC recommendation for such a program.
If the President's committee were to publish a recommended program for a balanced effort in the nation's research and development, then the scientists outside the White House could function in a democratic manner by individually appraising the programs and feeding back reflections on them to PSAC members, to scientists in government, and to Congressmen. There would be the possibility of discussing the issue in the nation's news forums and within scientific societies. Granting that the scientific community has no internal cohesion or mechanism for acting as a collective Solomon on the matter, it could nonetheless function in a diffuse democratic manner. Furthermore, competent individuals within our
society would then be in a position to translate the technical issues into popular terms and thus to facilitate a more general discussion. In this way society at large would become acquainted with the goals and aspirations of science.
President Kennedy touched upon this matter when he said: “The question in all our minds today is how science can best continue its service to the nation, to the people, to the world, in the years to come." It would seem that a basic first step should be definition and promulgation of the issues. This is perhaps not PSAC's responsibility, but somewhere in the White House, presumably in the office of the President's science adviser, the challenge should be faced squarely. An annual report titled The State of Science and Its Prospects for Society could serve as an excellent vehicle for exposing issues to public appreciation.
PSAC brings up the “national interest” and long-range policy for research in connection with its recommendations on high-energy physics. As expressed by Dr. Donald F. Hornig, chairman of PSAC under President Johnson: "It is in the national interest to support vigorous advancement of high-energy physics as a fundamental field of science.” This is a determination of a group of scientists, but how does society react to such a specification? As we have noted, Congress has wearied of the excessive fiscal demands of high-energy physics and shows a preference for projects which have more meaning for voters. Dr. Hornig recognized the problem, for he said: “... if science is influenced by the democratic political process, if considerations other than scientific merit enter into our choices and decisions, it is up to the scientists to make clear to the layman what the bases for choice are, and what they understand by merit in basic research. In short, we must communicate a wider sense of the meaning of scientific research, its internal value system, and its value to the nation and its people.” This advice is well taken but the formula for successful dialogue is not revealed.
President Eisenhower's first science adviser, Killian, had his hands full trying to relate PSAC and himself to the pressing issues which reached the White House from the operating agencies of government. In attempting to put the federal R & D house in order, Killian saw a need for some coordinating body which would resolve squabbles among the various agencies and buffer PSAC against a flood of unwanted business. To this end an Executive Order was issued creating the Federal Council for Science and Technology (FCST). This Council is essentially a subcabinet composed of policy-makers from eight major government departments and agencies; it is both a clearing house and a lower tribunal for adjudicating the conflicts of the thirty-eight agencies which claim a chunk or a sliver of the R & D pie. The President's science adviser presides over FCST, and its work is divided among the following committees : A. Standing Committee.
(a) Panel of scientific personnel.
(c) Panel on laboratory astrophysics.
Problems unresolved by the Council or by the science adviser may be passed on to PSAC as the higher tribunal, but not necessarily the court of last resort. While issues get debated in committee, they are also handled by the interested agencies in devious ways. For example, enthusiasts anxious to promote an agency project may leak stories to the press in order to whip up public support or solicit aid from Capitol Hill. The problem of establishing the proper liaison between the White House and congressional R & D committees was a factor in the creation of the Office of Science and Technology (OST) under the direction of the President's science adviser. The OST was established June 8, 1962, and its first director was Dr. Jerome B. Wiesner, President Kennedy's science adviser. Thus Dr. Wiesner was the first adviser to wear four hats-one as the President's adviser, one as chairman of PSAC, another as chairman of FCST, and a fourth as director of OST. In addition to these roles, Dr. Wiesner operated as adviser to the Bureau of the Budget. For his many activities Wiesner needed a staff and this was provided in OST where he chose eleven men to cover various fields of science and technology. He realized that the committee structure of PSAC and
FCST was cumbersome. A committee is like a car without wheels; it will not go anywhere under its own power. It needs staff work, especially if the committee experts meet only occasionally for a day or two.
The PSAS-FCST-OST trinity gave the President's science adviser great power within the federal structure of science and technology, so much so that some Washingtonians muttered that he had become a science czar. Whether or not the noun had relevance, officials in the federal agencies knew that power in R & D matters had been congealed in the White House. Few would deny that this was now the seat of power. But the use of power was of low political visibility; both those within and without government were often in the dark about who really made decisions on R & D matters and how the process worked. The White House science affairs involved consultantships with some three hunderd specialists, but the roster of these men was held confidential by the Office of Science and Technology. An air of secrecy often surrounded the activities of the science advisory staff.
I was reminded of the parallel to Vannevar Bush's Research and Development Board (RDB) which had been his brainchild for directing military R & D in the early postwar years. Top-level committees populated by "weekend consultants” attempted to deal with the Pentagon's research and development programs, but the gap between the laboratory and the committees of RDB was too great. Furthermore, the military found ways to infiltrate RDB and to outmaneuver the Board. It was just not possible to make this committee system of R & D control work when the actual work was done in widely scattered laboratories. Thus RDB turned out to be a depressant instead of a stimulant to creative research in the Defense Department.
Imperfections in the White House science advisory mechanism will not, I believe, be resolved by patching up the present organization. Some of the defects are organic and go deep within the present makeshift structure. There is the very real question as to whether any group of part-time science advisers or fulltime lower-echelon assistants can piece together a wise national program in a privileged sanctuary isolated from contact with the public. As one reads the testimony of Wiesner, there is clear admission of the need for a vigorous interplay of the inner sanctum and the outer world, but he implies that this takes place adequately through liaison with Congress. Testifying before the House Select Committee on Government Research, Wiesner said:
“Our attempts to understand these changing patterns [of science and their impact on society] require the utmost effort and cooperation of both the expert, who can illuminate the choices and help to plot the right paths, and the layman, who in his own community and through his representatives must determine these overall objectives and their value. That is why the interest of the Congress in these areas is particularly welcome at this time. Your appreciation of the full dimensions and capabilities of our national involvement in science and technology will enhance the nation's ability to allocate its scientific and technical resources in ways that best serve national purposes." Since the average Congressman serves as middleman between expert and layman, this double communication from expert to Congressman to layman is a dubious relay operation.
From what has gone before, it appears that the limited exposure of White House science advice to the general public places a maximum reliance upon the good sense and qualifications of the new elite. When the few decide what is good for the many, government is shaken to its democratic roots. But our society is confronted with the enigma that only a relatively few are highly specialized and they talk in a strange tongue. The public is thus forced to back science on the basis of blind faith. It really has little choice and is so isolated from decisionmaking that it does not know that it has a choice.
Recent interchanges between scientists have highlighted the fact that scientists disagree on what is good for science, so there is apt to be even more disharmony over what is good for society. Confining the matter to the area of fundamental science, we find that scientists are confronted with the necessity for making decisions on science policy. Dr. Alvin Weinberg phrased the problem as follows:
As science grows, its demands on our society's resources grow. It seems inevitable that science's demands will eventually be limited by what society can allocate to it. We shall then have to make choices. These choices are of two kinds. We shall have to choose among different, often incommensurable, fields of science-between, for example, high-energy physics and oceanography or between
molecular biology and science of metals. We shall also have to choose among the different institutions that receive support for science from the governmentamong universities, governmental laboratories and industry.
Weinberg was critical of the White House machinery for making these choices ; he went to the heart of the matter and focused on the criteria for making policy decisions. He defined three criteria : scientific, technologlical, and social merit.
In the area of science, the postwar upsurge of research spending has been so prodigious that demand has outrun the supply of federal dollars. Thus the President's Science Advisory Committee has had to make decisions-or recommendations which are often tantamount to decisions—which alter the flow of federal funds to the various fields of basic science. For quite a number of years the gush of government money did not reach any critical mark in the reservoir of science and few outcries were heard from the scientists. But when Congress decided to squeeze back on federal support, rifts began to appear in the domain of science. Weinberg proposed that the criterion of scientific merit be the extent to which a field of science contributes to its bordering areas. In other words, a field which contained within itself the fruits of its research would merit less support than one which scattered fertile seeds to neighboring areas. This criterion, although wise in its formulation, is not easy to implement. It involves advance information on experiments or at least prejudgment of their outcome. On this basis no government dollars would flow to really radical ideas or to "way-out” scientists like Albert Einstein. One would need a committee of Einsteins which would probably admit that it could not give any worthwhile advice.
It strikes me that it is absurd even to attempt to mastermind science by a topechelon committee at the White House level. The existing science advisory structure is already top-heavy and too far removed from the creative zones of research. Science has grown so rapidly that the government has responded by patching up its administrative structure rather than by attempting any basic reforms. The fundamental goals of expanding human knowledge and capitalizing on creativity through research can be realized most effectively if the centers of scientific research are kept as free and as healthy as possible. The whole purpose of pumping over $2 billion each year into the body of basic science is to ensure that our country preserve its vitality and never falter in fostering innovation on a wide front. As Norbert Wiener summed up shortly before his death :
The purpose of science in society is to enable us to react homeostatically to the vicissitudes of the future. This future is, however, not one which we can completely foresee beyond a certain very limited point, which moves ahead in time as our experience moves ahead. This being the case, we must always possess a much larger stock of information concerning the environment, physical, medical and social, than we shall probably use in any particular course of history. It is of the utmost importance to our safety against the vicissitudes of the future that this stock of fundamental scientific information be kept extremely wide. On this view, the United States pays out its money for basic research as an insurance premium. Most scientists are in agreement that the university environment is most favorable to the flourishing of basic research. The federal government recognizes this fact and it has not been stingy in its support of research on campus. But because of the many agencies handing out funds the large universities face a veritable blizzard of paperwork for the many separate projects which are funded by separate agencies, each of which demands its own accounting and often makes laboratories into private empires which are wasteful and inefficient.
If the government trusts the individual colleges, institutes, and universities to do basic research, it would seem appropriate for the government to trust them to decide how funds might be allocated most wisely. Rather than have a large university's research effort multisected by conflicting contractual lines, it would be better to have lump-sum awards to the university and allow that institution to decide how the research funds should be split up. Such a proposal is not apt to warm the cardiac cockles of many a university president who would far rather have somebody off-campus make the research decisions, but it would bring the decision-making close to the core of creativity. Furthermore, it would inhibit the untoward growth of campus empires which produce a distorted research program. At the same time one can slice off a big section of bureaucratic fat that has bulged around the midriff of federal agencies concerned with administering research contracts. It would diminish the wheeling and dealing of scientistpromoters who have won large R & D contracts through their Washington contacts.
Since such lump-sum support of research would bypass the separate government agencies, I believe that the awards ought to be made from a single central
source. A logical agency for such activity would be a Department of Science whose head would be of cabinet rank. He would make funds available to educational institutions on a formula which would encourage participation by the various states. For example, half of the funds might be outright grants and half might be awarded on the basis of matching funds supplied by the state. A single uniform method of accounting would be adopted by the Department of Science, thus cutting through the maze of record-keeping and contractual red tape of the present agencies.
An advantage of concentrating responsibility for basic research in one Department of Science would be that the Secretary would be politically visible and accountable to the public. The over-all research program of the United States would be a matter of public record, for the Secretary would be required to make a comprehensive annual report on the state of science in the nation. No such accounting is now made to the American public nor does one appear to be entertained by the science advisory setup in the White House. One could see, for example, the balance between research done by lump-sum awards to educational institutions and that done within the framework of the government agencies, both within federal laboratories such as the National Bureau of Standards and in places like the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
The new Department of Science would have responsibility for all basic research carried out within the government. Actually it was not until 1964 that a highlevel study group began to appreciate how many research laboratories were in existence throughout the government. It discovered that there were approximately 150 (the exact number was in doubt) laboratories owned or operated by the government. Little real interrelation of these research centers was in evidence; often some maintained an attitude of stern detachment, presumably to protect their own empires from invasion. Freedom of research is one thing, but completely self-willed activity without respect for work done elsewhere is quite a different matter. Such duplication of effort is minimized in university-based research by openness of publication and by ease of access to visitors. Isolated research laboratories such as those maintained by the Defense Department are more prone to duplication because of restricted publication and intercourse with the outside world.
Since the new Department would coordinate basic research and determine in-house priorities for its various programs, it could well absorb the functions of the Federal Council for Science and Technology (at least the research phase of FCST's role) of the President's Science Advisory Committee and of much of the Office of Science and Technology. There would be no need for a special assistant for Science and Technology since this function would be served by the Secretary of Science.
A number of illustrious scientists have opposed centralization of research within government during the course of years when a Department of Science and Technology has been debated. Dr. Roger Revelle, an outstanding oceanographer, put forth the view that “the last thing we need is a Department of Science hovering over all like the Archangel Gabriel. Science permeates—or should permeateour entire federal structure and should not be concentrated in a single department.” I would agree with Revelle if such concentration meant amassing all scientific resources into a single Pentagon of Science, a regimented bastion of tightly controlled research. But most of the scientists' objections to a Department of Science and Technology really pertains to the nine-tenths of the R & D activity which is not basic research. The proposal advanced here is that the nine-tenths remain in a status quo pending further examination of its structure.
Under the new establishment for science, research would be carried out largely in the same sites as now although some consolidation might be effected. In the field of atomic research it is now apparent that some more drastic reform is necessary because the military R & D function of the Atomic Energy Commission is basically fulfilled. Huge production facilities weigh down the AEC and some should now be mothballed while the remainder are turned over to the Defense Department. The Department of Science would take over the civilian research functions of the AEC and rehabilitate the field of nuclear research. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory, for example, needs to be reoriented along new lines, perhaps of a biological nature. In general there appears to be a strategic shift in the offing which will place emphasis upon the biological sciences. This reflects both the need and the opportunity. Of the total research funds spent by the United States only a small fraction goes to bettering man's personal conditiontoward freeing him from the burden of ancient bodily afflictions. For example, it