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For example, the Federal Government certainly had a role in establishing research and development work in atomic energy. It just wasn't possible for anyone else to have undertaken this.
There is a point at which the development activities are handed off to industry, and where the AEC responsibility stops and where the Federal Government responsibility begins. Just where the industry responsibility stops and starts and where the Federal responsibility starts and stops is not easily defined.
Similarly, for many years the old NACA had responsibilities in research and development on aircraft, and there was always the question of where industry picked up its responsibility. I think that there is no doubt that the Federal Government has responsibilities and should have responsibilities in research and development of this sort.
Each case has to be decided on its own merits. And I think that decision has to be made, as I said, with a great deal of discussion in both the legislative and the executive branches.
Mr. WAGGONNER. I can understand that rationale, but pursuing that rationale, how do you justify your position that there should—even if Federal Government dollars, taxpayers' dollars are involved, that there should be no control and no management over research, in contrast to your advocacy of control over development?
Dr. TRIBUS. Well, the problem is what you can do. In other words, I think it is very tempting to look at the well-controlled and wellmanaged development project and then look at what appears to be a very chaotic situation in research and say "Well, now, let's come in here with good managerial style.” What I am saying is, attempts to do this don't lead anywhere, it doesn't work.
Mr. WAGGONNER. In other words, as far as research is concerned, whether they are public dollars or whether they are private dollars, the researchers are to go their own way and management is going to go in another direction?
Dr. Tribus. What we end up doing quite often is supporting a level of effort. If we see that there isn't any activity in a certain area, we hold out money and say to people, we think you ought to be active in
Mr. WAGGONNER. Somewhere doesn't somebody have to make a determination that that level of effort is justified, that there is a demand for it, that there is a need for it, that somebody is going to benefit from it? Now, how can you make these judgments without some control and some management?
Dr. TRIBUS. I understand the line that you are following, and what I am saying is that when you try to do this, it doesn't work. I am saying that there are some things we don't do very well.
Mr. WAGGONNER. But you have said that we have achieved successes through research beyond our wildest dreams and created problems beyond our terrible nightmares by employing what has succeeded. And you want to change it!
Dr. TRIBUS. I don't think I said that. Would you repeat that again, sir? I don't think I followed what you just said.
Mr. WAGGONNER. Well, what we have been doing you criticize. You say we have had too much control over the research publicly and privately.
Dr. TRIBUS. Oh, I haven't said that.
Dr. Tribus. No; I didn't mean to imply that. I was just warning against trying to do it.
Mr. WAGGONNER. In other words, we should get on a correct path in attempting to control research.
Dr. TRIBUS. We haven't really attempted to control research as far as I know.
Industries that have tried it have turned out, as Bob Charpie said, that 94 percent of them let me get the actual statistics--the 200 enterprises which spend 94 percent of all the R. & D. dollars only produce some 30 percent of the important innovations. They just come up elsewhere. And therefore, I have said, as I think the chairman has indicated the committee has concluded, that one has to have a very relaxed style with respect to the research side.
And my argument was against changing from that. I think in this country we have done very well on that.
Mr. WAGGONNER. But our style can't be so relaxed that somewhere we don't make a judgment that we ought to change directions or continue to go in the same direction, because industry that you speak of has given us testimony here in this committee that they are guided finally in a research project by whether or not it will produce something that can be marketed at profit.
Dr. TRIBUS. It is a question of where the decision is made in the process. Let me tell you a few examples from-specific experiences in industry, because I can make these points much clearer by example than in talking in generalities.
For example, I was talking to a researcher from Novosibirsk, a very prominent Soviet researcher. I said to him, "what do you do when you have a really good idea and you want to get it funded?"
And through the interpreter he came back right away. He said, “I do what you do, I cheat." And I said, "what do you mean by that?" He replied, “Well, I can hide it in another budget until it is good enough so I can prove to people it is all right, then I bring it out.”
And this goes on in the United States, too.
Mr. WAGGONNER. Does this go on in the Department of Commerce now?
Dr. Tribus. I don't know. I have only been there a little while. I am trying to find out.
But this is what I know goes on in industry all the time. And I have talked to the heads of research laboratories and they tend to make an agreement with their people. They say, “Look, you work on the things I want you to work on, but spend a little time doing the things which you think are right."
And there is a constant interplay between those who try to manage research and those who are at the bench. When a project or an idea has progressed to where it looks attractive, then a new strategy is used. When people from industry talk about how they control what they put their money on, they are talking about development. Recall the ratio of 1 to 10 to 100 here. They are talking about where they spend the 10 to 100.
But you show me a research laboratory which at the primary level is
tightly controlled and I will show you an outfit that isn't doing anything.
Mr. WAGGONNER. Are you telling me that as far as dollars are concerned, there are no controls over research laboratories, that they don't have limits beyond which they can't go?
Dr. Tribus. Oh, they do, they do. They have limits.
But where somebody comes in and says, I need a million dollars' worth of equipment, then all of a sudden it is a new game because we have moved up from the 1 to 10 to 100. When somebody wants money for a linear accelerator, there is so much money involved, that you have got to have a good control of how much you spend on it.
Mr. WAGGONNER. You are getting me confused, Doctor. On the one hand you say we shouldn't have control, then you say obviously we have got to have control.
Dr. TRIBUS. I have said when we move from research to development we should have control.
Mr. WAGGONNER. But you weren't talking about moving from research to development.
Dr. TRIBUS. When ever you deal with a single project that begins to have amounts of money involved in it that are comparable to the GNP, like 1/100 of 1 percent of the GNP, obviously you can't make a decision like that without everybody getting involved.
But that is not what most of the funding of the research in this country consists of. Most of the funding of the research in this country consists of projects that are not anywhere near that size. Now, as soon as you get into development, then we are talking about a potential commitment of a lot of money, and everyone in industry has to figure out how to manage that.
And as I say, the major frustration in industry right now is how you take something from that stage, where it was small enough that only a few people were involved, and largely it was the reputation of the man that decided whether they would go ahead-how you take it from that stage to the stage where you are putting a lot of money in it. No one in this United States really knows how to do this well. There are, however, a few companies which feel they are good at it.
I have talked with the manager of research at the 3M Co. They think they are pretty good at it, and I have observed that they seem to do a pretty good job. But when you get behind the scenes and start talking to them about how they do a lot of this decisionmaking, you see that it is an art in which the personalities of the people seem to play the dominant role.
Mr. WAGGONNER. I was interested in your statement, Dr. Tribus, about centers of excellence and whether we should provide these socalled centers of excellence to a greater extent than we do, or whether we should allocate research on a sort of a welfare basis. You use the term "a welfare basis.” I would like for you to elaborate a little bit there.
How do we serve the needs of a growing population and a more complicated society by not broadening the base and creating additional centers of excellence ?
Dr. TRIBUS. Well, I think-to come back to one of the themes I tried to stress in this presentation, I think we need to agree upon our goals. And I think it would be proper—in fact, I advocated this: that certain funds be set aside and frankly be used in the sense of welfare to create educational centers that do not now exist or where they are not well supported.
I said during this period that I was serving as a consultant to NSF, "I just want you fellows to decide what our objective is, because as soon as we decide that we are going to support a social welfare objective, then I have different criteria for deciding who to give money to. I have different things I would require from them on their side to do.
On the other hand, if you want this money to go where we are going to get the most in the way of research results, I am going to exclude this particular university from further consideration, because it is clear that they haven't got a chance, but I think we ought to help them.
Mr. WAGGONNER. Well, you have answered the question. You think we ought to help them.
Dr. TRIBUS. Yes, I think we should, and I tried to express that.
Mr. WAGGONNER. I certainly agree with you. I think we have given too much attention to a few so-called centers of excellence, we have some others who are deserving sitting on the sidelines with their hand out begging for a crumb, and they haven't gotten it.
Dr. TRIBUS. But the manner in which the funds are given, if we decide that it is a social welfare purpose, will be different. The things we would ask the recipient to do should be different. We should frankly get in and plan to give our money in such a way that it leads to strength. Because--for example, this happened to be a small Negro university in the South that just has a very small, weak department of chemistry, And it is obvious what we should have done, was just turn around and give them money for equipment and to support some of their people, to work in the summer and perhaps even go away and work at some other institution, and learn some things to come back so they can do a better job of teaching, and that the exact nature of the proposal for research and whether it was avant-garde and so forth was really secondary.
On the other hand, when we get someone from a good institution coming around with a proposal, we ought to look at it and we ought to be pretty hard and say, look, this isn't first-rank, it has already been done somewhere else, and stop it.
Mr. WAGGONNER. How do you make these judgments that an individual from one school or another has ability or doesn't ?
Dr. TRIBUs. Well, sometimes it becomes pretty obvious as you read the proposal and read his references and read what he has to say about his work—it becomes pretty obvious that this fellow is up with the field or not. Now, in some cases you have been wrong, and I have been wrong sometimes in these judgments. But in general you can tell, just looking at the facilities of the institution and the people around him.
Mr. WAGGONNER. You can judge the capability of an individual by looking at the institution?
Dr. TRIBUS. Oh, no, not entirely. You have a whole series of things you have to look at.
And as I say, you often make a mistake.
Mr. WAGGONNER. Take an application from one of these so-called weaker institutions that is poorly prepared as contrasted to a wellprepared proposal from some center who has participated in a number of Federal programs. Do you assume from the outset that that individual prepared that application, or that they hired somebody who had experience to do it?
Dr. TRIBUS. If we are talking about scientific research, it comes through pretty quickly when you read the proposal for what is to be done and why it is to be done and how it is to be pursued and from the background that the man brings to bear. And I have in some occasions seen proposals from so-called weak institutions that have been excellent. And I have said, this is great, let's give this support.
I am asked as an adviser to the NSF-or was asked in the past, to rank the proposal, the man, and the institution separately. And it is more than once that I have said I can't say anything good about the institution because I never heard of it, but this proposal sounds very good and we ought to give this fellow a chance. And it is very unlikely that that proposal was written by somebody else.
Mr. WAGGONNER. Mr. Chairman, I have further questions that I could ask, and I will prepare them for the record.
Mr. DADDARIO. It would probably be best, Mr. Waggonner. And I think your line of questioning does lead to a whole series of others that ought to be prepared for the record.
Dr. Tribus, we would like to take advantage of you in that regard and will send some questions.
(Questions submitted by the subcommittee to Dr. Myron Tribus:) 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. I believe that the difficulty the National Science Foundation has in selling itself to Congress and the American public is directly related to problems inherent in the American culture. We are not primarily a scienceoriented nation. It has always been a small minority of Americans who have concentrated on science. Now the problem threatens to get worse, because the impact of science is growing, and the fraction of our young people turning to science is diminishing. There is a very serious communications problem between the National Science Foundation and the rest of the science community on the one hand, and the nation on the other.
This problem is compounded by the fact that, in our society, people confuse "science" and "engineering.” It seems often to be the case that people who think they are supporting science are in reality supporting engineering. The important work in science frequently originates in undertakings which do not appear to be particularly useful; and yet, for many years, scientists have been most successful in selling themselves and their programs when they have been successful in selling the end product. Elementary science textbooks often begin by generalizing about the wonderful things science does for society, and then proceed to describe engineering achievements. In my judgment, this basic misunderstanding about science is the root of the problem which now confronts the National Science Foundation.