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Mr. DADDARIO. Yes, but it came to that policy statement at a time when it was under the financial gun.
Dr. HANDLER. That sharpened its decision undoubtedly.
Mr. DADDARIO. The policy statement prior to that time was it would do this work.
Dr. HANDLER. My point is that we have seen the same thing in many agencies in these last few years. When they confronted the budgetary stringencies which were restrictive they had to assign their own internal priorities in science; the field of science most remote from the mission is the one that got the short shrift. And I suppose that, had I been director of a mission agency, that is precisely what I would do. You in the Congress would look to that director to see that he accomplished his goals for society, and those programs which relate to the agency's mission at the turn of the century or in 1985 are the ones which could subside for a year or two—is certainly the decision he must take. Again, the urgent drives out the important.
But it seems to me there ought to be one agency to which the Congress can look and understand that its goals are always about tomorrow, and it is always building a platform with which all other agencies and American society in an unforeseeable future will be strengthened. That is the role of the NSF and should be the role of the new agency in very large measure. Just as it is of the Office of Education which produces tomorrow's citizens.
Mr. DADDARIO. Obviously this committee should look at this activity even if no organization were to occur as a result of these hearings. The way in which fundamental research is being conducted and the transfer of this from one agency to another is by itself a very important problem.
Dr. HANDLER. Yes.
Mr. DADDARIO. Dr. Handler, the National Academy of Sciences has conducted several studies in various disciplines, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and others and their need for support. As we look at priorities and we try to come to some judgment about how we should choose amongst these priorities in the various disciplines, what should be our approach? We presently have a committee on discipline comprised of practitioners in that discipline who recommend the funds for that particular discipline. I wonder if somewhere in the overall planning we should not determine some way through which we have an opportunity to have an overview of this activity in all of the disciplines to see if we can come to some judgment beyond that of what ought to be in each discipline, but how can we establish priorities amongst all of them.
Dr. HANDLER. Well, as you know quite well, this is the one question with which the scientific community has had the greatest trouble in coming to grips.
We can set goals for internal priorities within a discipline. We find it very difficult to make the apple and orange comparison between disciplines.
But in point of fact, that kind of thinking does go on all the time. It happens in the Office of Science and Technology. It certainly happens in the annual exercise of preparing the budget request for the National Science Foundation. NSF is the one agency which deals with
all aspects of science, and it has to decide, within what it hopes for its appropriation in a given year, where to put its resources. Now, to some extent that consists of "listening for the squeaky wheels” and providing funds to wherever the clamor has been greatest most recently. But not entirely.
For example, the buildup of funds for the support of chemistry has come as a result of recognition that there is no single Federal "mission agency” which bears a 1-to-1 relationship to chemistry itself. It isn't the basis of the activities for some other Federal agency. On the other hand, fundamental research in chemistry, largely in the universities, is the basis for what is now the $40 billion per year chemical industry. And so NSF takes it upon itself, with that as a consideration, to strengthen chemistry. Allocations for the support of physics were made in the light of knowledge of what was going on at the Atomic Energy Commission and other physics supporting agencies, and so forth.
The programs within the life sciences which NSF is supporting are managed in full understanding of what the Department of Agriculture and HEW are doing. So to some extent, inside NSF there has been this kind of balancing decision with respect to priorities, decisions which are never black and white. Nothing in this system is wrong; it is just that some things are more right than others at a given time.
To explain the basis for those decisions would be extremely difficult even after they have been made. You would be hard put to explain precisely what you did, why it is that you arranged to distribute funds as you
have. În some areas it is a very simple thing to do. In areas of big science, priority setting can be relatively easy. You decide to buy a big telescope or you do not. That is a single, overt decision arrived at by considering the needs of astronomy and of all of science, and much simpler than deciding how much more money to put into systematic biology, where there never is a big step function in the funding:
Yet we have done fairly well, I think. When considering whether to fund another 150-inch optical telescope, we know that the funds are going to come out of the totality of the rest of the program and can predict the consequences. So NSF really does, in-house, engage in the kind of exercise which you are discussing. Yet again, I must confess that a restrospective justification of the precise allocation of its resources in any one year would be very hard indeed. There is no discipline which we would choose to shut off, nor is there any discipline to which we would allocate all our resources. There has to be some place in between which is rational. And that derives from the educational requirements of the Nation, the requirements of the Nation for new knowledge, the requirements of the Nation for new trained people.
Some decisions are much more difficult. Let's say there are 25 universities, each of which would like a new 40-inch telescope. But we already have numbers of 40-inch telescopes. Given the current number of 40-inch telescopes, we can learn as much astronomy as we can with any larger number of 40-inch telescopes. It would just take longer.
On the other hand, a new 200-inch, fully instrumented telescope might cost as much as all those 40-inchers, but it has one other prop
erty, and that is that we can learn something we cannot conceivably learn with any number of 40-inchers. And that is a perplexing, hard internal decision. The National Science Board, at one point, went on record as saying that, when the opportunity is there, we should in every instance go for the acquisition of a new capability which would permit us to do something that simply isn't doable with current capabilities. That is an internal ground rule which we have occasionally used for ourselves.
Mr. DADDARIO. You get to the point where you have to make another decision under that set of facts, too, don't you?
If you were to build a 200-inch rather than the 40-inch telescope because it would do much more for you, then you get into the area of making determinations about national laboratories and the way in which the universities then give up doing what they have been doing in this area and sort of feed off of the national laboratory.
Dr. HANDLER. That is correct.
Mr. DADDARIO. Dr. Handler, you talk about the failure of science support to increase in a series of places where you believe organization can be improved. I wonder if the way in which we get additional science support is through a better organization and as a result of a better organization, a better way to prepare requests or to present requests so they would be better understood by the public, by the Congress. So that we could get the kind of support which they are presently not getting. This is one of the points that Dr. Wenk raised.
Dr. HANDLER. With respect to the American public, the proposed new organization might well provide opportunity for a wider appreciation of the nature and great importance of Federal support of science. And we should spare no effort in so doing.
With respect to the Congress, that is a political judgment which I am not particularly competent to answer.
An additional $100 million in support of research in physics is relatively easily lost in the budget of the Department of Defense, and would loom like a mountain if put on top of the NSF appropriations, for example.
Mr. DADDARIO. You can always put the $19 million in that category, couldn't you?
Dr. HÄNDLER. You can. It was trivial in the life of the Department of Defense. It was, as you know, just an enormous source of confusion and difficulty for NSF.
But I really think that is a political decision and would prefer to put the question back with you, sir.
Mr. DADDARIO. Well, in the final analysis, yes, it is. But the political decisions are allowed to be brought about in the most positive way as a result of the ability to get advice so that this political decision can be made. The ability to organize; to have this organization better understood; to see where the various disciplines are going; to understand which ones ought to be supported and to what extent, and which are subject to interdisciplinary relationships aimed at not only under
standing themselves, and each other better, but also developing the kind of knowledge within them to be directed toward the solution of some of the problems of our society, or at least the hope that they might, I think is a very important part of all we are doing, and what a lot of people are looking for.
Dr. HANDLER. It would certainly provide an opportunity for the American people and for one set of committees of the Congress to be quite knowledgeable with respect to the federally supported scientific endeavor. Under current circumstances, this understanding is fragmented across a great variety of congressional committees.
Mr. CABELL. Would the gentleman yield at that point?
Mr. CABELL. In line with that same discussion, I have heard the fear expressed on a number of occasions that if these were drawn together it would be like a united fund. That it would decrease the cause or would have a tendency to slow down. But let's look at the other side of the coin. If we had a watchdog-I am sure scientific men don't like to be referred to as watchdog, but that is the only analogy I can make at the moment. But if there were one agency, not committee, in whom the Congress had implicit confidence, that more or less was an agency, we will say, of the Congress, that could dispell the fears on the part of the Members that there is duplication, and possibly couldn't we do even a better job of funding these necessary activities where there is a better degree of confidence on the part of the Congress as a whole ?
Dr. HANDLER. That is quite where I came out in the end, Mr. Cabell. That is among the reasons I proposed what I did. I decided that if there be a risk, it should be a purely temporary risk in any case.
So I think this kind of reorganization would serve the national needs and permit science to do a better job of serving the national needs.
Mr. DADDARIO. Dr. Handler, we have gone beyond closing time here. You, Harry Brooks, and I have something else to do at noon time. But you have made some very important recommendations, some of them extremely complicated, all of which involve the political aspects, and has imposed upon this committee some serious obligations insofar as its relations to the Congress are concerned.
You spell out and give a light tap at least to the idea of how awkward and difficult this is in regard to the committee structure of the Congress. This is something that we as a committee recognize and have tried over a period of time in formal ways to overcome the structure and in some areas we have been somewhat successful. But this is a far cry from doing everything that needs to be done. Obviously we have some problems here which reflect themselves in some of the organizational activities which go on in the executive branch. I do want time to analyze these and to inquire of you further in this regard. I think we might be able to do it through the form of some staff activity and further questioning. I hope you will agree to do that.
Dr. HANDLER. I will certainly be glad to reply, sir. (Questions submitted by the subcommittee to Dr. Philip Handler:) 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. There are several justifications for federal funding of science and science education. The program basis for funding of the scientific endeavor is the high utility of science to society in general, despite the very low predictability of the ultimate utilization of any one piece of scientific information or understanding.
The public has been done a disservice by two kinds of science reporting, both of which lead to misapprehensions. On the one hand, there have been a few highlytouted, notably successful, science-based inventions in which the practical implications of the science findings were put to work with very little lag. These include the atomic bomb, radar, the proximity fuse, the laser, and a few drugs, including, for example, DOPA, which is currently used for the treatment of parkinsonism. Ordinary reporting ignores the fact that, for most technological innovations, scientific ancestry must be traced back thirty to fifty years in order to develop a clear picture of how the innovation ultimately came about. The second variety of misapprehension was engendered by studies that indicated, as in Project Hindsight, that technological innovation rests on easily available scientific and technical information and ignores the scientific effort that was required, usually over decades, to develop that information. The consequence is inadequate public understanding of the long-term nature of the investment in science, the fact that the intellectual structure of science must be put together brick by brick and that you cannot build the next layer until the previous layer is approximately complete. It is essential that this story be conveyed in some effective manner to the American public and understood by their respresentative in Congress.
The second reason for the support of science is that science represents a central force in our cultural development. It is entirely possible that we shall never utilize the developing understanding of the structure of the cosmos for practical purposes here on earth, and the cost of attaining that understanding is quite considerable. But science is our current frontier, and its exploration constitutes a national purpose that gives tone and quality to our civilization. If that be true, as I believe it to be, we require expanded efforts to assure that a much larger fraction of the American public shares in that intellectual adventure as it proceeds. In all likelihood, the chief mechanism available to us for so doing is the television screen. I have little doubt that a greatly expanded program of educational television, supported by private and public funds and addressed to an adult audience, concerned with technological innovation, technological assessment, the growth of science, understanding of our genes, of our brains, and of the physical universe in which we dwell, could significantly extend the constituency of NSF.
A quite different mechanism, a deliberate science lobby, could be created. As you are aware, this subject is raised from time to time. I have consistently opposed such a development. Lobbies speak in protection or aggrandizement of the personal self-interests of their constituencies, be they farmers, doctors, labor unions, or industrial associations. But a science lobby should not be a lobby for the personal interests of scientists. Instead, if it were worth anything, it would lobby in the national interest to extend the development and utilization of science, by securing the financial resources required to do this job. But I can only believe that such an effort would be seriously misunderstood and for this reason I am in dead opposition to creation of such machinery.
The key is surely an enhanced public understanding of science, what it is and how it is used. What is required, therefore, is an educational campaign on all possible fronts, and it behooves working scientists to participate earnestly in such an endeavor. I am sure that both the National Science Foundation-its Board and staff—and the National Academy of Sciences would be most pleased to be of assistance in this regard.
Question 2. Do you forsee the Academy gaining increased influence were it to become less dependent upon Federal funding and able to exercise greater discretion in accepting government assignments ?
Answer 2. The charter of the National Academy of Sciences directs it to provide advice to agencies of the federal government upon request. The charter does not forbid the Academy to develop its own agenda, nor does it insist that all such requests should be honored. The Academy is not concerned with "gaining increased influence," for the sake of influence. But it is concerned that it be maximally useful to the people of the United States. To be so, it is increasingly necessary that the Academy be in position to develop its own agenda, to address itself to