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Let me give you some examples:
First, science and technology have given man weapons of such mass destruction potential that the threat of global catastrophe is still a deep-seated concern of every nation and every citzen;
Second, medical science and public health measures have sharply reduced the death rate, and as a consequence population outraces world food supplies and concentrates in outmoded urban centers;
Third, technology has shrunk the world by instant global communication and ever faster transportation so that events anywhere can have an almost immediate effect everywhere. In a technological, if not a political sense, we are close to having one world, and with that, an exposure to a sharply increased flood of problems for each of us to be concerned about. We are becoming a world community instead of a village;
Fourth, while technology has given man the tools to control his environment, it has also given him the power to degrade his environment—the land, the atmosphere, and the oceans inadvertently and often irreversibly. Our urban centers in particular become less livable, less attractive, less humane;
Fifth, technology has provided in the computer an unprecedented capability to deal with information. It may supplement or replace man in
many of his labors. But more information may not be better information. And, it is just possible that with the information implosion we have both increased the noise level and reduced the capability for decisionmaking; and
Sixth, technology has become a key tool in the exercise of political power and in the acquisition of wealth. The few who control these tools thus may appear to some to have a disproportionate influence on the lives of the individual.
It is thus not surprising that some of our scholars and many of our younger citizens have conferred on science and technology the quality of a dehumanizing devil and then pursued this devil theory to the extreme. They would argue that not only have science and technology failed us in social crises, science and technology are actually at the root of the crisis. And they would claim we have mistakenly substituted technical progress for social values.
This antagonism between the scientist and the nonscientist is not new. In 1959 the British scientist and author, C. P. Snow, diagnosed one of our social ills as a fatal split between two cultures—between science and humanities, and between science and politics. At the time he articulated this atomistic quality of the world in which we live, I found myself in strong disagreement.
I am not sure. I am convinced that the ethics of science and the spirit of man are basically in harmony—and that the wonders of this technological age can be successfully employed for positive social purposes.
It is my belief, therefore, that science and society are not intrinsically headed in different directions. But I would also contend that they have not been mutually reinforcing because we have lacked links of human communication and we have Iacked institutions to bind the two cultures.
My question, therefore, is not whether science and technology may aid suciety meet its goals—the question is "How?"
Throughout history, technology has been a vital force in the advance of culture and civilization. Initially, technology was based on pragmatic experience; then empiricism; now in science. Ancient earthen dams and aqueducts made possible the early practice of agriculture; Roman roads opened a barbaric continent; improved ship technology and navigation of the Renaissance fostered worldwide exploration and trade. All of these engineering achievements enabled man to master his environment a little better.
Our early statesmen-Jefferson, Madison, Franklin-recognized that science was compatible with society and with democratic government. In their vision, they saw science and technology expanding the dimensions of freedom by providing new options for each individual-widening choices as to where he could live or travel, at what he would work, the extent to which he could become educated and enjoy the fruits of his labors and of others'. While they recognized knowledge was an instrument for improvement of man, I doubt that they realized science and technology would release men from the labor
the soil and later from the factory—to permit ours to become the first society in history with a sizable fraction of its adult work force at school or engaged in the educational enterprise--and a sizable fraction of everyone's time devoted to recreation-while maintaining the highest standard of living on earth.
I personally cannot accept the notion that science is inimical to society. But I am alarmed at the divisive forces that could spell a long-agonizing interval of frustration for both sides.
What about remedies? First, let me warn that I see no swift solution, because this problem has been in the making for 25 years, and finding the solution may take as long.
Where is the starting point?
Scientific research and development are sponsored and supported largely by the Federal Government because it has been the principal customer. The Federal Government, therefore, has determined the scale and mode of research and how to apply discoveries. Applications have primarily been generated in relation to defense, atomic energy, and space.
Confronted with a new set of social problems, we collectively agree that they require Government attention, albeit State and local as well as Federal attention, and private involvement. Unlike military, nuclear, and space questions, issues such as prevention or control of crime, improved urban transportation, management of the environment, and improved housing must be settled in the highly visible public arena, by consensus.
The Federal Government thus occupies a vital position where serving collective needs and aspirations of our society converge with developing the potential tools for their satisfaction.
It is thus no wonder that a concerned scientific community seeking solutions to problems of our society, assumed that the vanguard of political and economic policies would be naturally evoked if only basic research were adequately supported by the Federal Government. Many went so far as to quantify the needed rate of support.
The nonscientific community, which comprises by far the greater fraction of our population, was unconvinced. As the stimulus of the
1957 Soviet space shot evaporated, so, evidently, did congressional support of research. Now we have a level-funding syndrome.
Part of the reason may lie in a growing, emotionally charged hostility toward science and technology. Part of the explanation may
lie in the failure to increase public understanding of the dynamics of science at the same time and in phase with increases in its potential for contributing to our national welfare. Part of the explanation may lie in the desire of the scientific community to isolate science from politics, that created a breakdown in congressional understanding of science's values and purposes.
I might say, parenthetically, Mr. Chairman, that this committee has been conspicuous in its efforts to facilitate communications between scientists and policymakers, and in its legislative initiatives to aid understanding of science.
There may be another explanation for the cleavage.
If science and technology are to bear fruit, there must be a harmonious linkage between the knowledge producers and the knowledge consumers, a coupling between the opportunities offered by science and the needs of those who would provide the capital, build the institutions, and serve as entrepreneurs to apply science. Within the Federal Government, this interaction has operated most effectively in the case of the Department of Defense. Defense requirements can be clearly and often quantitatively expressed. Alternatives can be relatively easily evaluated. DOD also has the direct capability and authority to sponsor research on and development of solutions to meet its own requirements. It communicates vertically and horizontally in a single, albeit technical, language.
This is not so in the civilian area. The knowledge consumers in this case are largely outside of the
Federal Government and exist in great variety as well as number. They differ and frequently compete in their interests. The translation of knowledge to action must go through many institutional pipelines, modulated by considerations of law, finance, and politics.
If we regard the science-technology apparatus in terms of engineering principles, it is driven by two concurrent forces—the pressure of new discovery and the suction of human need. The focus of attention on nourishment for basic research is necessary for progress, but it is not sufficient.
Forces for expansion of research must be external as well as internal. As to those external forces, we have no problem in recognizing our needs—they are abundantly manifest. The problem is in coupling those needs to the wellsprings of science and technology. And here the two forces must be alined, and complementary. Thus, the challenge for policy planning in the Government is to focus on imperfect articulation between knowledge generators and knowledge users, to identify and where possible dissolve inadvertent impediments to the smooth application of scientific discovery, and to project all the steps of effective political process.
With regard to the first two of the problems listed earlier—the imperfect application of science to social needs and the festering conflict between science and the humanities—I believe that we must take all possible steps to recognize that our society is so complex and multi
faceted that we will meet the future by synthesizing of its elements rather than by fostering specialization. In other words, to accomplish the tasks ahead, we may need to reeducate ourselves to the notion that all of the professional specialties on which our society depends must be pooled if we are to succeed.
I would, therefore, urge attention to policies of the Federal Government that would foster this integration-as for example, the establishment of multidisciplinary research institutes, each focused on a social goal. We seriously lack this capability today, including the capability to develop along with new technology the steps of education and political action for successful injection of science and technology into society.
Scientists and policymakers must work under one roof. We have already seen what a short half-life an agency may have when its mission is oriented toward technique rather than function.
Mr. DADDARIO. Whom are you referring to there?
Dr. WENK. I am referring to the concerns that have been widely expressed over NASA's future role, Mr. Chairman. And I believe the same problems can be found in a number of other technologically based agencies. These are concerns which have been expressed by people far wiser than I, as to the manner in which Federal organizations--established on a technique or technology rather than on a function-find science and technology moving so fast as compared to the social environment in which they exist that there is a fundamental difficulty in adjusting the organization to the pace of science itself.
Mr. DADDARIO. Do you think Dr. Wenk, that this committee should look at our whole way of producing knowledge and rather than tying as affirmatively as we have in the past our laboratories to mission agencies; that the laboratories ought to be maintained with a tremendous capability outside of these agencies to provide knowledge as they fit themselves into the pattern of our lives and to then be able to adjust themselves to the needs of society; and that this could be done by detaching the control from these knowledge producers and these laboratories rather than to continue the way we are? Is this what you have in mind?
Dr. WENK. Mr. Chairman, I think I would put strong emphasis on this vertical flow from the laboratories to the policy level in focusing on individual social goals. In other words, what I am saying is that the present location of research facilities in our agencies is not only a healthy way to assure conversion of their knowledge to agency requirements, but it may turn out to be the only way. As a consequence, I strongly support the conduct of research in the agencies or sponsorship by the agencies that have explicit social goals.
One problem in the present situation is that we have not developed this practice in our civilian agencies as well as we have in our military. This is reflected by many barometers. One is the level of funding itself. Another is the great difficulty of getting Federal support-public support-for science in areas like that of pollution, that you, Mr. Chairman and this committee called attention to many years ago.
And we could go right down a list of problems in the civilian area for which we need increased support of research, and also greater efforts to translate that new knowledge to practice. In many cases,
like that of pollution, which Mr. Lukens asked about, we may have knowledge sitting on the shelf and lack the capability to apply it. Therefore, Mr. Daddario, I would support quite strongly the view that research should be conducted in mission-oriented agencies.
Mr. DADDARIO. That is an extremely complicated question, which we need not go
into at this time and which the committee has touched on in its National Laboratory hearings. There is no simple answer to it.
We have a quorum call which does give us a little bit of time.
I would like to ask one question, where on page 6 you said you also contend “that they have not been mutually reinforcing because we have lacked links of human communication and institutions to bind the two cultures."
Aren't our universities such institutions, and even though they have found themselves narrowly restricted, in my opinion, so far as disciplines are concerned? Don't we now see the institutions reacting so that we can tie together the sciences and the humanities, science and politics?
The Congress itself is one of those institutions.
Dr. WENK. The Congress perhaps is the most successful of these. You put your finger right on the problem, Mr. Daddario. I do not believe the universities have succeeded. I do not believe that they have made very much progress in breaking down these watertight compartments between their own departments. I have talked with many people in the universities and spent a great deal of time there myself. The toughest job they have to do is to develop multidisciplinary institutes.
The traditions, administrative, and sociological forces in the universities today are all antagonistic to the multidisciplinary approach. The only job I know that is tougher than trying to make the departments in the university work together is making the agencies of the Federal Government work together.
Mr. DADDARIO. But don't you see the signs of activity in this particular
Dr. WENK. I see signs of activity, but not success. In my view, the
Mr. DADDARIO. You must have activity before you have success, I would expect.
Mr. MOSHER. Is it a popular concept? Is there a lot of talk, at least?
Dr. WENK. Yes, I think the talk is increasing, but I don't see that there has been much action, quite frankly-especially when it is measured against the scope of the problems. Let me just talk about my own profession of engineering. My colleagues heard me object to too parochial an approach of the profession probably 10 or 12 years ago. Í have looked at a list of complaints I cited against my profession then, and that same speech could be given today. A number of people in the engineering fraternity, particularly in education, are looking at the whole question of broadening the curriculum so as to include more time for humanities. The same questions are being asked today as were being asked 10 or 12 years ago, and the answers have not been found.
In the case of marine sciences, for example, we find the most challenging questions are those that involve not science alone, but science, engineering and law, public administration, business administration.