Page images
PDF
EPUB

has undertaken in the past would mean that we should do better than to leave things where they are, including the feeling that Dr. DuBridge's office, now having responsibilities in environment, urban affairs, space, marine sciences, a whole multitude of other things, ought to be strengthened to have the manpower capability and the facility capability to perform these functions in more than a perfunctory way.

Ďr. WENK. Several years ago I had the occasion to look at the role of the Office of Science and Technology and I believe the essence of that analysis was that their capabilities should indeed be strengthened.

If I could just comment on this last point you raised, Mr. Daddario, and that is the matter of the professional organizations' involvement. Let me just say from the point of view of my own responsibility, I have tried at least to practice what you have heard preached here. In marine sciences, we have specifically gone to all of the industrial and professional organizations that we know have interest and specifically solicited advice. This was done quite overtly. The interesting thing is that we got some, and in one or two cases it is known that the Government doesn't agree with the advice that we received. But nevertheless, this it seemed to me was a very necessary part of understanding how this works.

We have gone to the American Fisheries Institute, we have gone to the National Petroleum Council, we have gone to the Marine Technology Society, to the American Society of Civil Engineers, and specifically to the two academies, Academy of Science and Academy of Engineering, in what is going to be a long-term continuing request for advice.

I really believe the Government has got to do this, and I believe that it should be made clear that legislation might inadvertently cut off this mechanism of really understanding what it is that the country needs.

Mr. MOSHER. Mr. Chairman, isn't that proposal aimed not only at learned societies and not so much at learned societies as foundations and other institutions? I think it would be a disaster, myself.

Mr. DADDARIO. I was limiting my comment to the engagement in no substantial part rather than the other complicated factors dealing with the foundations which we could go into, but simply to talk about that from the point of view of the committee's involvement on that subject and the way in which that does fit into the hopes and ambitions of this committee and is a proper part, too, of development of our ability as a committee of the Congress to provide for the Congress better advice specifically along the lines Mr. Mosher has inquired about.

I do not believe, either, that the only time a society should offer its advice is when it has been asked because there may be times when it has something of particular importance which it should come forth with.

Dr. WENK. I agree.

Mr. DADDARIO. Even if it has not been asked. Because there could be many occasions when this could be so. That involves itself in the no substantial part. There ought to be flexibility, I believe.

Well, Dr. Wenk, I do have a whole series of other questions, and we do want Dr. Handler to finish his testimony today. We thank you for having come. We appreciate your candor.

Dr. WENK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. DADDARIO. Thank you. Dr. Handler? I need not say anything more about our next witness, Dr. Philip Handler, than that this is the first time he appears before this committee as Chairman of the National Science Board and as President of the National Academy of Sciences rather than when he appeared on the last occasion as president-elect of that academy. His biographical background and relationship to this committee is well known.

Let's go as far as we can go, this morning, Dr. Handler.

STATEMENT OF DR. PHILIP HANDLER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL

ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

Dr. HANDLER. Thank you very much.

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I am most pleased to appear before you this morning to participate in what I consider to be a most timely discussion of a major problem in our society. I would like to join Mr. Mosher in applauding the lyrical statement by Dr. Wenk which I thoroughly enjoyed, and to most of which I couldn't conceivably take exception.

Although I wear several titles, it is not in those capacities that I speak this morning. The views I shall present are entirely personal, since, in this instance, I am not as yet empowered to speak for the membership of either the National Academy of Sciences or of the National Science Board. Neither group, as such, has, as yet, addressed these problems or arrived at a consensus. The Board does, however, hope to speak to this problem sometime this fall and bring to you and to the President, à well considered statement documenting the case in some detail. What I have to say this morning, however, is a purely personal statement.

The Federal Government is today the principal patron of science and science education in these United States. This situation stems from the fact that science is useful rather than from the fact that the intellectual structure of science, largely erected within our own lifetimes, is a magnificent heritage which we shall leave for succeeding generations, entirely analogous to the gift of the cathedrals of the middle ages or the great art of the Renaissance. It is because science breeds technology which is applicable to the solution of the diverse problems of our national life as well as to our national defense that the Federal Government provided about $2.25 billion toward the support of fundamental research in the last fiscal year and almost twice that much for the support of what is called applied research. Support of science on that scale has not been the result of a conscious, overt, planned decision on the part of the Federal Government. It is, rather, the sum of a multitude of lesser decisions made within the White House, a variety of Federal agencies, and the congressional committees which have legislative and fiscal oversight for those agencies.

In one set of actions the Federal Government did overtly and deliberately recognize the contribution which science had already made to our national life and which it was expected to make in the future-actions which, seemingly, were intended to assure that that

future contribution will be of the magnitude and quality commensurate with its recognized potential. I speak of the creation in 1950 of the National Science Foundation and those legislative acts which, since, have strengthened its charter.

Ironically, however, the growth of Federal science support far outstripped the growth of appropriations to the National Science Foundation which, in fiscal year 1969, provided only 15 percent of the Federal support of academic science and 12 percent of the Federal support of basic research. The evident reluctance to sustain the growth of the National Science Foundation, the 20-percent decrease in its appropriation for fiscal year 1969 and the action of the House with regard to the NSF appropriation in the current year may all be taken as evidence that many Members of the Congress are unpersuaded that support of the national scientific enterprise, unjustified in terms of specific agency missions, is a matter of high priority. On the other hand, the Congress has consistently looked with favor upon the support of research which, in the eyes of those responsible for the missions of such agencies as the Atomic Energy Commission, NASA, HEW, and the Defense Department, is imperative to future success in their missions.

Yet, today, there is increasingly frequent reference to the desirability of reorganization of the Federal structure for the support and conduct of science. Opinions in this regard and the rationales which underlie such suggestions have been admirably summarized in the report entitled “Centralization of Federal Science Activities,” a report to this committee prepared by the Science Policy Research Division of the Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress.

No point will be served by detailed repetition, here, of the diverse arguments which have been advanced, pro and con, with respect to the desirability of creation of a major new Federal agency dedicated to the Federal support and/or conduct of scientific research. The principal pro arguments, however, derive from the failure of science support to increase through four consecutive fiscal years, and the increasing evidence that, as predicted, in times of budgetary stringency, those responsible for administration of the mission agencies necessarily defend those activities most closely related to immediate accomplishment of their missions so that their most long-range scientific research programs may receive short shrift.

Moreover, from the standpoint of the Congress there has been increasing concern with respect to the amount of overlap and duplication of effort in this relatively uncoordinated system administered by a series of Federal agencies, with the possibility of inequities in the geographic distribution of funds when, for no one major agency, certainly no “mission agency," is this a major responsibility, with the difficulties of liason and of information storage and retrieval, concern with respect to the contents of these diverse programs, and with respect to the efficiency of use of federally owned and operated laboratories. Meanwhile, the OST in the White House, charged with “coordination" of the Federal science effort, is woefully understaffed for this task and can hope only to achieve a few major planning efforts and the day-to-day"firefighting” as problems arise. From the standpoint of the administrators of some agencies, overlapping jurisdictional authority

has presented serious problems with respect to long-term planning and program development, particularly with respect to science education, while the universities and their faculties are confronted with a maze of differing ground rules and regulations and administrative practices.

Because the United States has, again without a truly overt decision, carefully spelled out, accepted the premise that the universities should be the primary seat of fundamental research-rather than the independent research institutes characteristic of science in other nationsthe problem of science support has become inextricably intertwined with the problem of financial support to the educational institutions wherein science is conducted.

The final thread in this fabric stems from the fact that both the Congress and the mission agencies become decreasingly comfortable with both laboratories and research support programs which appear to be relatively remote from the agency missions, for example, the support of high-energy particle physics both by the Atomic Energy Commission and the Office of Naval Research, the support of materials science laboratories by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense, the support research in chemistry and in fundamental biology by the National Institutes of Health, as well as those programs of the Bureau of Standards which seem otherwise unrelated to the classical functions of the Department of Commerce. To this list should be added the fact that the space agency is, in its entirety, a science conducting and supporting agency. The proponents of an amplified Federal undertaking in oceanography and marine science suggest that yet a new agency be created with exploration of the oceans as its primary mission, and, in other quarters, there is a substantial feeling that current understanding of ecological principles and phenomena is so primitive at a time when such understanding is imperative to intelligent planning for conservation, highway construction, pollution abatement, and urban renewal that yet another agency is required to assure progress at a rate commensurate with national needs.

Meanwhile, the more painful aspects of American life in this decade have suggested to another group that an intensive and substantial program, by yet another agency, in support of the social sciences, so that the latter may contribute more effectively to the solution of national problems, represents yet another significant and seriously unmet need.

I shall undertake no analysis of these various contentions, many of which are summarized in the report to which mention was made earlier.

Suffice it to say that in the minds of some, a new major science agency could alleviate many of these ills, thereby easing the concerns of the Congress, providing for the support of inadequately nourished scientific disciplines and an appropriately balanced national program, enabling flexibility of response as new scientific vistas are opened and coming to grips with the perpetual problem of determination of priorities, meanwhile minimizing the difficulties to both investigator and academic science administrator occasioned by our pluralistic system, and assuring that science will be highly visible and sufficiently repre

sented within the councils of Government. Moreover, such an agency, with its manifold listening posts, its links to all elements of the scientific and technological community could serve as a focus for efforts to assure that advancing technology could be brought to bear on the domestic problems of our society. When these thoughts are advanced, the chief argument against them—at least within the scientific community—is the grave concern that, having failed to support the National Science Foundation in a manner commensurate with its potential contribution to American society, the Congress is unlikely adequately to support a yet more all-embracing science agency and, hence, provide less support than the organizational components from which it had been fabricated might otherwise have commanded independently.

I cannot help but share that concern. Conversely, a good deal of the interest of the scientific community in such a new venture would probably evaporate were the appropriation to the National Science Foundation to double in the next few years, a goal which, in any case, I warmly commend to you.

The second concern expressed by opponents of a more centralized single agency is the potential loss of the system of multiple juries which now assures that worthy new ideas can receive, when necessary, more than one hearing, thereby avoiding the specter of authoritarianism in the direction of scientific activity. And, again, I share that concern.

The charter of the National Science Foundation, particularly as amended under the initiative of this subcommittee, is adequate statutory basis to assure the support of worthy science in all disciplines, to manage programs in support of the universities and other nonprofit institutions which engage in such research, and to manage programs in support of science education and information. Current inadequacy of funding for research and education in ecology and the social sciences, for example, readily could be managed by the NSF were its appropriation sufficient to these tasks. Indeed a significant fraction of all of the desired goals listed earlier could be achieved by adequate funding of the NSF together with transfer of responsibility for certain activities now funded by other Federal agencies.

Nevertheless, I consider it timely and appropriate that we consider alternative organization forms and inquire into their merits.

As the report from the Library of Congress indicates, there is a spectrum of possible reorganization schemes. Quite clearly the maximal arrangement, an amalgamation of all science-using, conducting, and supporting agencies, would not be politically acceptable, nor would it be in the national interest. Science and technology are so pervasive that they have become relevant to the missions of virtually all Federal agencies. I continue to adhere to the philosophy that each such agency should sponsor or conduct research which is most immediately relevant to improvement of its mission capabilities. But not quite so clear is the extent to which each such agency should also fund fundamental research whose mission-relatedness is not so apparent. The latter problem is not readily susceptible of definitive solution, and in all likelihood, such definition really isn't required.

On balance, I favor the compromise of creation of a middle-sized agency generated by the fusion of a limited number of existing agencies.

« PreviousContinue »