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Mr. Daddario promises—some will say threatens—that there should be hearings on the subject in the near future. For another, he says that "during the past several months, I have come to feel that some change in the Federal Government organization for scientific activities is necessary”. It is true, of course, that congressmen can hold hearings until everyone has talked himself dry and the Administration may yet not budge if it is otherwise inclined. So far, there is no sign of which way the wind is blowing, if it blows at all. Yet there is nothing to be lost in a thorough public examination of the dispute between central and diffuse management of science.
Much of the report is concerned with the recent history of the controversy, and the staff has been able to assemble an impressive list of statements from distinguished people about the desirability of change. Most recent science advisers seem to have been persuaded by the experience that some change of the machinery is necessary, while Dr. Phillip Handler is quoted as saying that “the time has come to resurrect the idea of a department of science”. Even Dr. L. DuBridge, the new man, dares to concede that “I am not saying that the present organization in government for carrying out research and development is the final one”. On the principle that there is hardly ever anything really new, the report is able to trace the beginnings of the movement for central management to the 1880s, when the National Academy of Science seems to have mustered wide support for such a plan. Its own contribution to the argument is a design for a particular piece of government machinery called the National Institutes of Research and Advanced Studies which might function as a central manager of federal science. Everybody is at great pains to point out that this scheme is nothing more than a means of fixing ideas—something to argue about. In practice, however, there is enough guile in its design for it to be a possible model of the future pattern of organization.
What is the kite which the committee's document seeks to fly? One guiding principle seems to have been to give as little offence as possible, and certainly the proposal now put forward would not threaten the supposed supremacy of the President's Science Advisor as the chief purveyor of advice to the White House. The scheme would also allow the mission-oriented agencies to go about their business much as they have been doing in the past ten years. The new organization would consist largely of a grouping together of existing organizations such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, with the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities thrown in for good measure. Under the same umbrella would be fitted other grantgiving bodies now waiting in the wings or even in the imaginations of interested groupsma National Institute of Ecology (which has the Ecological Society of America as would be foster-parent), a National Social Science Foundation, a National Institute of Advanced Education (which would take over from the Office of Education responsibility for the support of graduate education) and a National Institute of Applied Science. The last of these as yet non-existent organizations is in many ways the most interesting and the most contentious, for it would be built around the National Bureau of Standards but would also include several other public laboratories removed from agencies such as the Atomic Energy Commission—the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, for example.
How seriously should this scheme be regarded? And how effectively will it serve Mr. Daddario's purpose of further stimulating the debate about the central science agency? The first thing to be said is that the great compilation of opinion about the defects of the present system and the merits of some other unspecified system, although fascinating, is not directly relevant to the proposal for the National Institutes of Research and Advanced Learning. Many of those who have in the past been advocating some kind of change could easily emerge as merely lukewarm supporters of what the committee has proposed. The question to decide is what kind of organization would provide the best insurance against the defects of the present system for providing Federal support for science and technology in the United States. It is important in this connection that discontent about the lack of funds in recent years should not become the chief incentive for arguments in favour of a more central organization. In the climate of the past two years it it quite possible that a central agency for the support of basic science would have been even more vulnerable to demands for economy from the budget makers than the existing network of organizations has been. Given the complexity of the relationship between Congress, the administration and the outside world, there is undoubtedly some truth in the
argument of those who argue for the present arrangements on the grounds that a plurality of grant-giving agents is some kind of an insurance against parsimony from on high.
The arguments for change are, by comparison, overwhelming. The most glaring defect of the present system is the way in which the National Science Foundation, ostensibly responsible for the general support of academic research outside the special interests of the NIH, should have so small a budget. Rather less than a sixth of the Federal Government's spending on university research-$1,517 million in the new fiscal year—comes from the NSF, which spends a third of its total budget on general support for higher education in one form or another. The weakness of the NSF is, to be sure, justified on the grounds that the agency is intended only to be a kind of "balance wheel", making good the deficiencies of other agencies. Yet such a task is virtually impossible. Intelligent grant-giving requires that agencies should be able to take a long view of the field in which they operate. It is no wonder that several of those whose opinions are collected in the Daddario Committee's report are compelled to draw attention to the difficulty of winning money for the NSF in Congress. By the same test, there should be no surprise at the way in which several participants complain of inadequate support for fields such as chemistry, although, from outside, the slow pace of growth in radio-astronomy is, for example, a still more obvious defect. But all this implies that there is a great need to concentrate in the NSF some of the expenditure on university research now channelled through other agencies$275 million from defence, $109 million from NASA and $96 million from the AEC. The balance between the NSF and the NIH (which spend $666 million a year in the universities and colleges) should be re-assessed but not necessarily changed. And all this should be done whether the NSF remains independent or becomes a part of something like the National Institutes of Research and Advanced Learning.
The desirability of the committee's general umbrella for the support of academic research is more problematical. To be sure, it would be good if a greater sense of cohesion, between existing grant-giving agencies could somehow be created. It would also be sensible if policy on the development of graduate schools could be more firmly directed; many of the difficulties of the past few years have come about because of the tacit understanding with Congress that money provided to universities under the general heading of research is really intended to help with educational developments of a more general kind. But there is a danger that if the National Science Foundation were separated entirely from responsibility for a strategy for higher education, there would be an end to the constructive interaction between grant givers and recipients which had produced, for example, the constructive and challenging recommendations of the National Science Board. There will also be some dismay at the prospect of the National Institute of Applied Science assuming responsibility for government laboratories which may have outlived the purposes for which they were originally created. Experience in Europe in the past few years has demonstrated clearly that there is nothing quite as dead as a laboratory of applied science without an immediate application as a goal.
The trouble, of course, is that by seeking to avoid trouble, the committee's proposal has also managed to avoid the chief difficulties in the present pattern of the administration of academic science in the United States. Where change is needed most urgently is in the system by means of which the pattern of research in the universities is determined not by the careful deliberations of the grantgiving agencies but by the way in which a more arbitrary pattern of research is superimposed on these by the mission-oriented agencies. One obvious illustration of the folly of the present arrangements is the way in which funds for experiments to be carried out on satellites in orbit about the Earth-or even more distant places—are probably easier to come by than funds for equally costly but potentially more lasting experiments on the Earth. Certainly expenditure on space science (most of it sound and estimable) is running well ahead of expenditure on radio-astronomy.
The long-term remedy is to be sure that the funds for the basic research which agencies like NASA are willing to undertake should be channelled through the NSF. Less formally, the Science Advisor at the White House could stop unbalances at the source, by making sure that the large agencies do not by accident become dominant sponsors of university research at the same time.
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY,
Pasadena, Calif., August 11, 1969. HON. EMILIO Q. DADDARIO, Committee on Science and Astronautics, U.S. House of Reprsentatives, Rayburn
House Office Building, Washington, D.C. DEAR MR. DADDARIO: Thank you very much for your letter of July 15, with the invitation to submit a written statement to your Subcommittee on Science, Research and Development in view of my inability to appear in person.
I would like to divide my statement into three parts. The first has to do with some trends which I see developing in attitudes in this country toward research and development, and toward science and engineering which concern me very much. The second has to do with the problems of applied research, some of which have recently been considered by a Panel of the National Academy of Engineering. The third has to do with the specific subject of your hearings: the matter of Centralization of Federal Science Activities.
A. TRENDS IN ATTITUDES TOWARDS RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
I would like to cover the first by conveying to you the following answers which I transmitted to Senator Fred R. Harris, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Research of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, at his request and in response to his questions:
1. What, in your considered judgment, have been our major national science policy assumptions, that is, the conceptual underpinnings of the Federal Government's support of research and development, since the creation of the Office of Scientific Research and Development in World War II ?
(a) Research and Development are an unmixed good. (6) Research support should grow with the number of people qualified to do it.
(c) Development needs to be judged on the basis of its contributions to economic health or national security.
(d) Exponential growth of research at 15 to 20 percent per year, of development at 10 percent, can go on for a long time.
(e) Research and development should be done where it can be done best. Research choices are best left to researchers.
2. Are new assumptions emerging or evolving, and if so, what are they?
Yes. Mostly they are overreaction from the earlier-held views listed in (1), and are mistaken, or only part of the truth. Nevertheless, they are becoming widely held by differing and more or less numerous groups of people.
(a) Research and Development are the source of many of society's problems, and the solution of few.
(6) Research is a competitor for funds with worthy social programs.
(c) Research and Development should be distributed geographically to build new centers of excellence.
(a) Growth in Research should be slow, and in Development near zero. (e) Development should concentrate on urban and environmental questions.
(f) Research and development people should not determine the nature of their work.
(9) Much research is irrelevant and wasted.
3. In the light of any fundamental changes, how might our science policy mechanisms be modified to formulate and implement science and technology priorities and policies that are more responsive to national goals and that are more in consonance with the national interest?
On research (and graduate education) (a) Institutional grants on the basis of excellence at least as much as on size. (6) Full graduate student support.
(c) More interaction between researchers and supporters in determining fields of concentration.
(d) Clear recognition that research applications are not always predictable, so that though applied research priority judgments must involve developers and users as much as researchers, much basic research must be chosen by researchers.
(e) Continue multiplicity of support.
(f) Encourage developers to work on environmental and urban problems, but give them the flexibility to invent that the military developers have been given.
B. APPLIED RESEARCH
I. THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM People now ask for immediate relevance; this is clearly a change in attitude. In 1961 it was considered, by most, wonderful that the government was spending 2 billion dollars for basic research, 12 billion dollars for research and development. In 1969 it is considered, by many, tragic that we spend 2.5 billion dollars for research, 4 billion dollars for applied research, 18 billion dollars for research and development. From the public's point of view, basic and applied research are tied together in a complex way.
(a) Definitions. Basic research and applied research are defined by motivation. However, motivation may be different for the researcher, the supervisor, and the source of support, even though the research itself may be identical. We can instead divide applied research by discipline, perhaps thought of in terms of applicability of the discipline to various ends-rather than specific research in the discipline. For example, if we make optics healthy, it is applicable to library management, medicine, aerial photography, etc.
Now what is the right amount of support across the R and D spectrum?
(0) I would like to present the following theorem, which I heard indirectly from Charles Hitch: in the spectrum of activity running from basic through applied research to advanced development to engineering development to development for production, and then to testing and evaluation, the costs of an optimum program go up for many kinds of enterprises (electronics, aircraft, etc.) on a logarithmic scale. The support from industry (and from missionoriented government agencies) is likely to fall well below this optimumfurthest below for basic research ; less for applied, etc. The reasons, for industry, are the difficulty of showing a direct connection with a profit-producing enterprise, and the fact that the more basic the research, the less subject it is to patent or propriety position. There are analogous reasons for the mission-oriented agencies.
(c) To a substantial extent the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health have brought basic research nearer to the optimum-at least in operating funds—though it probably never has reached optimum; in fact, in recent years it has fallen rather badly below again and desperately needs reinforcement, especially in facilities and institutional funding. In the case of applied research, there has been no central agency. Until now, such an agency has perhaps been less needed. Some work (after all, 4-5 billion dollars is a lot) has been done by central laboratories of various industries, and by missionoriented agency support of industrial and university research. But, as society's problems become more pressing, we find that in many cases (by no means all), the applied research (in physical, biological, or social—a special case-sciences) on which to build development is missing. And the somewhat scattered and in-and-out approach of the mission-oriented agencies and of industry inevitably means that the discipline-oriented approach suffers. Furthermore, areas important to a variety of agencies or industries, but not the primary responsibility of any one, also tend to fall into the cracks. Problems in the American steel, coal, and railroad industries testify that this can have serious consequences. Thus it can be argued that the span of the bridge of research, development, testing and evaluation which is labeled "applied research”, though heavily funded, may be the weakest of all and in need of special attention from government, industry, and universities. The following chart will illustrate my point:
II. SOME APPROACHES (a) A proposal to set up an Applied Research Agency to provide institutional, teaching and research support was, as you know, considered at one time by some members of Congress.
(b) In view of the legislation which permits (although it does not mandate) NSF to support applied research at universities and nonprofit enterprises, NSF could very suitably do this job—with some provisos and caveats which I will mention later. It is used to supporting university research and it has had experience in determining quality. It has, or at least could have, a knack for seeing important areas which mission agencies can overlook. Of course, there are also some problems, e.g.
(1) Increasing involvement of NSF and its head in mission or development problems.
(2) Dilution of effort.
(3) Differences in style. (0) The applied research gaps which concern me are in areas which universities regularly cover in their engineering schools or divisions (most engineering research falls into the applied research category_which also covers applied biological and social science research). The following are examples of applied reesarch with profound social implications:
(i) Environmental pollution-applied chemistry, hydrology, meteorology, etc.
(ii) Jet noise and sonic boom-engine design, transonic and supersonic flow.
(iii) Earthquakes-prediction, prevention (or at least mitigation), earthquake engineering. (d) A linkage between basic and applied research would be desirable because often they differ only in motivation, and the public still (or again) needs education in the ultimate possible practical—as well as the certain intellectual-value of basic research.
It should be remembered that the most spectacular applications tend to come either from relatively new basic research-e.g., nuclear power from nuclear fission in the 1940's, transplants from immunology now-or from old basic research which, either under the impetus of new applied needs or from interaction with new basic research, becomes applicable when it was not so before. For example, lasers would now be gaining application much less rapidly in the absence of the energy level information from spectroscopic data up to ninety years old, which had until then been applicable principally in astronomy and other basic research. All of this reemphasizes the need for a linkage.
(e) Support of institutions and teaching, as well as of research, is needed. This is parallel to the situation in basic research, where the National Science Foundation has done well. The National Institutes of Health has spanned the basic/applied spectrum-and its performance probably offers some arguments for, as well as some lessons about, connection between the two.