« PreviousContinue »
unwise to impose any limitation on that position. This is an essential position in our society as I see it, and should be a well-staffed position for and of itself, for personal advice that he can give the President. As I have seen the operation of that office, the Science Adviser to the President is a very busy man. I think he has to be totally on call to the President whatever he may wish him for. So I would visualize an independent head for this Council. It is sufficiently important to warrant the full-time occupation of, I would say, five to six very distinguished people, not distinguished in terms of their gray hairs but in terms of their capability of understanding the major thrust of science and its reflection in our universities and the relationship of this to the general educational enterprise and to society at large. This is going to be a rough enough job itself, as is that of the President's adviser. I would oppose melding the positions.
Dr. BENNETT. I would just like to add, Mr. Symington, that the President's Science Advisory Committee has a very limited responsibility. I happen to be a member of it at the present time. My colleagues might not agree entirely with that statement, but it is my view. We serve in a part-time capacity, and PSAC is mentioned in my testimony only for the sake of completeness and not because either the President's Science Advisory Committee or the Federal Council would obstruct the plan that I have suggested. They do exist, and I simply wanted to indicate that there was no intention to do away with them, because they do have certain duties and responsibilities which they fulfill reasonably well. They certainly would not be a substitute for anything that has been suggested in addition.
Mr. SYMINGTON. Thank you.
Mr. DADDARIO. Well, gentlemen, there are a whole series of areas of opportunity which you have opened up for us. I am extremely pleased by the contributions you have made here today, which at the moment seems to point out that the work of this committee is really just beginning at this time and will necessitate a great deal of further activity, which has become more and more apparent to me as the hearings have gone on, and will most likely call for us to continue these hearings beyond the period of time presently contemplated.
I do hope that we might not only forward further questions to you, which we will, but that if we might also have the opportunity to discuss informally with you not only some of those questions as they have arisen here today but others which will come about as we analyze not only the recommendations you have made but recommendations that have been made and those which will follow in the time ahead, prior to the time when this committee will reach its final judgment on what recommendations it will make.
Dr. SHANNON. Be delighted, sir.
(Questions submitted by the subcommittee to Dr. James A. Shannon :)
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 seoure the funds corresponding to a national policy of continued preeminence for U.S. science?
Answer 1. The answer to this question requires first an appraisal of the root cause or causes of the inability of the National Science Foundation to establish itself as a major agency in the continued preeminence of the United States in science and technology. A basic flaw in the approach of NSF to this desirable objective, in my mind, stems from the manner in which it has defined its own mission. NSF defines its mission as one with the primary responsibility to support "basic research." It then defines "basic research” as that type of research, regardless of field, which is undertaken because of the intrinsic interest of a scientist in furthering an area of science without regard for the utility of the product of his endeavors.
Such a general description of "mission” tends to weaken the view that the aggregate activity of the agency has social utility, and that the agency has a capability of defining special science areas that warrant support and special consideration. Consequently, there has arisen doubt that the agency as a whole has social utility such as would warrant the expenditure of substantial tax dollars.
The concept that, in addition to supporting a substantial segment of this “basic research,” NSF can also serve as a balance wheel for the federal support of "basic research” is largely self-defeating within such a setting. The balance wheel concept requires that the agency concerned assess the ongoing national effort, arrive at judgments of need, and set its programs to fill in these needs so as to produce a "balanced program.” Such an appraisal demands making judgments on social utility of research as well as scientific feasibilty of projects. It also implies creating priorities within the NSF programming process which will emphasize some program areas as compared with others.
Actually, except for some large programs concerned with the development of specialized research resources such as telescopes, accelerators, etc., the program of NSF has largely evolved as the result of project pressures. These latter are generated by the accumulated project grant applications, each of which by definition has no special social and, therefore, understandable purpose. The nonutility of the program, in the eyes of its detractors, has been further emphasized by the use of bizarre and, at time, trivial project titles.
It has seemed to many observers that the attitudes which underly NSF program development are self-defeating and are, at the same time, an inappropriate basis for a sound support program for what many would prefer to call "fundamental” rather than "basic" research. In this view, fundamental research has the general characteristics of inquiries that develop new knowledge in a given field, but with the possibility of broader implications to collateral fields of endeavor. It can be described as the type of undifferentiated research which is the essential underpinning of progressive higher education. Essential in this sense really means essential, i.e., in the absence of which higher education will become a sterile, rote process.
Within such viewpoints, it becomes possible to view chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics, for example, in terms of what they now contribute in the applied and developmental areas. Derivative of such considerations emerge concepts of the most likely, lively and productive fields and the possibilities of the ultimate contribution of these fields to the satisfaction of broadly defined societal needs.
Even such fields as classical biology that may be pursued under the heading of ecology have meaning in such an examination. But the ultimate meaning is derived from an appreciation of the influence of an increasingly hostile environment upon an essentially balanced biosphere.
Similarly, the complex and very fundamental studies of the kinetics of chemical reactions, pursued effectively at very high dilution of reactants in a gaseous phase, begin to have societal significance in understanding the development of noxious products in the environment, e.g., the influence of ultra violet light on the production of peroxides and the influence of these on potential reactants in the upper atmosphere, and the releation of these to the practical problems of smog. And one could go further.
Much of the work in the field of molecular biology, be this related to proteins or other large molecules, to enzyme kinetics, to NDA, RNA, and related compounds, has relevance to such diverse fields in viruses; plan, animal, or human genetics. These fields in turn must be explored further in the applied aspects of biology in the elucidation of problems of human disease and susceptibility to disease; of cancer; of human nutrition; etc. And one could go on.
But the point to be made is that fundamental research is only understandable if one takes the time and trouble to place it within a frame of reference that is understandable to the layman, be he part of the general public or part of the Congress. The possibilities of exciting presentations go far beyond the few examples noted above, but this requires thoughtful consideration by the NSF of why indeed one field should be supported as contrasted to another. This is possible and indeed is done to varying degrees in every complex research environment in the nation. Why not also by NSF?
In addition, I believe that most members of the Legislative branch are pleased to have the opportunity to come into contact with working scientists and, in view of the large number of scientific meetings that are held in the Washington area, it seems to me that the National Science Foundation might undertake on a formal or informal basis to arrange for contacts between these two groups at social events.
Question 2. From your recent Federal experience, can you offer any observations regarding the effects on management or organization of Federal science activities which were brought about by the application of planning-programming-budgeting methods and techniques?
Answer 2. The NIH experience with PPBS has been disappointing. It has been found to be a costly system to apply in fields of science and education; to be as misleading as helpful when simplified and modified to be understood by top management; and not useful as a management tool in program analysis and program development.
It is quite pertinent to point out that DOD, the originator of this system did not find PPBS a useful system in DOD areas comparable to those of NIH. Areas amenable to input and output measurements and convertible to cost-effectiveness and cost benefit analyses are too few to make the system generally and profitably applicable.
It is my understanding, from many discussions, that research, particularly basic research, is one area of activity to which these methods and techniques cannot be usefully applied. With the exception of activities in the Department of Defense, the attempt to apply PPBS to other sectors of federal activity seems to me to be still in its infancy. The decision to undertake this task came before adequately trained personnel were available and I think it will be many years before the techniques can be successfully applied across the board. I am unaware of any significant effect of PPBS on federal science activities up until this time.
Mr. DADDARIO. Thank you all. This committee will adjourn until tomorrow morning at this same place, at 10 o'clock.
(Whereupon, at 12:02 p.m., the committee was adjourned, to reconvene on Thursday, July 31, 1969.)
CENTRALIZATION OF FEDERAL SCIENCE ACTIVITIES
THURSDAY, JULY 31, 1969
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10 a.m., in room 2335, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Emilio Q. Daddario (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. DADDARIO. This meeting will come to order.
Our witnesses this morning are Dr. Franklin A. Long, vice president for research and advanced studies, Cornell University; Gen. Bernard Schriever of Schriever and Associates, formerly in command of the Air Force Systems Command; and Dr. Eric Walker, president of Penn State University and president also of the National Academy of Engineering
We welcome all of you here this morning. There is no need for me to do more than refer to your names, because you have all been witnesses before this committee in the past. The biographical material is well known to all of the members. We do believe that we do have here this morning three men who have had long and close associations with the management, organization, and activities which are involved with the use of our science resources. It will be a particular help to this committee in its present deliberations.
I think we will start then, with Dr. Long, followed by General
PREPARED STATEMENT BY DR. FRANKLIN A. LONG
I am exceedingly grateful for the opportunity to appear before this committee and to discuss the kinds of centralization which may be desirable for federal consideration of programs of teaching and research in science. Before mentioning my general views, I should perhaps tell you enough of my background to let you appreciate from what standpoints I shall be concerned. A first point is that I am a professor of Chemistry. A second is that for several years I have been Vice President for Research and Advanced Studies at Cornell University, and from this vantage point, have been deeply interested in the broad problems which relate to teaching and research of science in universities. I have also been extensively involved with the affairs of a consortium of universities, the one which goes by the name of Associated Universities, Inc. and which operates the Brookhaven National Laboratory for the Atomic Energy Commission and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory for the National Science Foundation. As a consequence of this last, I have been concerned with the role of assemblies of universities and with the ways in which they can work with the government in the management of large science facilities.
Let me now turn to the particular subject of this Committee's study and outline in a general way the positions which I hold. First, I believe that the federal government does need additional centralized arrangements for handling its programs in basic and applied science and therefore commend the Committee's investigations in this area. I shall point to one or two specific areas where I think centralized efforts are needed. At the same time, I am doubtful whether it is yet time to take the full step of setting up either a Department of Science or a major National Institutes of Science. Instead I think the government should move toward greater centralization in this area but do it at a somewhat slower pace, learning as it goes. In supporting these positions, I will discuss a few topics in which there is great federal interest and give you my views and my feelings as to where a more centralized activity could usefully contribute. 1. PROBLEMS OF FEDERAL SUPPORT OF TEACHING AND RESEARCH OF SCIENCE IN THE
UNIVERSITIES It is well known that federal funds have assumed a major role in the support of teaching and research of the natural sciences in the colleges and universities of the United States. This support has principally come to the universities under the Fabric Research although small amounts of funds have come for fellowships from the Office of Education. An important point is that this support has come from a number of federal agencies. Several of these, including DOD and HEW, have explicit missions; only the National Science Foundation and perhaps the Office of Education can be thought of as agencies which support the university programs for their own sake.
There is no question but that United States science has grown and flourished under this federal support. At the same time one must admit that there are some awkward aspects, aspects which will continue to concern such Congressional committees as this one. One problem is the occasional awkwardness that comes from having a large fraction of the university effort supported by missionoriented agencies. There is the danger that the various mission-oriented agencies will not be willing to support all of the important fields of science and there is the danger of undue support of and emphasis on research as compared with teaching. Finally there is the danger of fluctuating support depending upon the needs of the federal agencies.
These comments should not, however, be taken to imply that universities do not want or should not accept research grants from mission-oriented agencies. On the contrary, support from such agencies as HEW, Interior, DOD and Agriculture has been of great consequence to universities and will surely remain so. The role of the university in the national planning and decision-making has been large in the past and I hope and believe it will continue to be so in the future. The problem then is not one of withdrawal but rather of program balance, of program continuity and of integration of the efforts of the various agencies.
A potentially important answer to many of these problems is increasingly to turn the support of university programs of research and teaching over to the National Science Foundation. It is of great significance to basic science that this Foundation has grown and flourished over the past decade. A large share of the credit for this growth must go to your committee and the scientists of the nation are grateful. Because of NSF's unique charge to support all of science, it is of the greatest importance that this agency continue to flourish and grow and I strongly hope that this will be a general federal policy. I have read Dr. Bridges' testimony of last week to this Committee and am glad to be able strongly to second his great emphasis on the special role of NSF.
However, it is hard to be optimistic that the federal situation will, in the near future, change so sharply that the majority of university support will come from NSF. Certainly many of the mission-oriented federal agencies will wish some fraction of their basic research to be done in universities, and I for one hope that this can continue even as NSF grows.
If pluralistic federal support of science in universities does continue, it seems to me that the need for improved coordination at the federal level can only increase. There already exist coordinating mechanisms for the activities of various federal science-oriented agencies, notably the Federal Council for Science and Technology. However, I am not persuaded that this committee has either the time or the capability to take on the large and continuing job of in-depth coordination which I think is needed for support of science programs in the universities.