Page images
PDF
EPUB

see?

his equipment and supplies, to pay his graduate assistants and laboratory technicians, to cover the costs of travel to scientific meetings and help defray the costs of publishing the results of his work. He looks to the Government for help—and, from his point of view, what does he

Well, he usually finds that there are several Government agencies that support academic research in his field. He knows that any proposal he submits will be judged by each agency on the basis of its scientific merits by a panel or review committee of experts in the field. He knows that if the panel thinks his proposal is a good one, it will be recommended for support. He knows, too, that if agency No. 1, say, turns him down for lack of interest in his field or for lack of funds, he can apply to agency No. 2. If he eventually gets financial support, he is quite happy--with his only gripe being that the process maybe was long drawn out and required a lot of paperwork--and that he must now do quite a lot more paperwork to submit the required reports and satisfy the university and Government accounting offices.

What fault then does he find with the Government organization for science? Does he worry that it, as an organization, is not efficient? Well, not much--unless the organization took too long to process his grant or to negotiate the exact amount of the budget. Does he worry if the agency that supports him is not "coordinated” with other agencies? Not much. He knows it is his job to coordinate his work with that of others working in his field. He would not be caught dead doing an experiment that someone else is doing or has done—so he reads the current literature, writes or phones his colleagues at other institutions, promptly reports his own results to them—knowing they will return the courtesy-and he publishes his results promptly. It is his job to do the coordination between his work and the work of other scientists in his field throughout the world.

Now, would any change in Government structure help him—the successful working scientist? This question must be seriously considered before radical new structures are approved.

But suppose the time comes when the scientist is told that there are insufficient funds to finance his project, or to finance it adequately or at a level compared to previous years, to allow him to meet the rising costs? That, of course, is when it hurts. That is when he complains about Congress, the Bureau of the Budget, the administration, the science adviser and anyone else who might be in sight. Not only is the scientist hurt, but the national scientific enterprise is poorer because his talents are not being used, or not being fully used.

Well, so much for the scientist's view looking upward to the Government.

We might now ask how the president of the university and the chief business Officer feel about the Government management of science. If their principal faculty members are adequately financed, their complaints will be more about the contract and grant procedures and the red tape, or about the adequacy or inadequacy of overhead reimbursement, or about the need for general institutional grants to cover the hidden costs of supporting university research and graduate study, or the need for free funds to finance the work of young investigators with bright ideas who do not yet have the reputation to compete for

limited funds with their more famous colleagues. Even these complaints of the university administrators could be satisfied by changing existing regulations or by new legislation. They do not require a change in Government structure.

Why then do some university people think there should be a change in Government structure? As far as I can tell, there is but one principal reason: a more coherent or more centralized structure, some believe, will be able to speak more effectively for science in the administration and in the Congress and, hence, to secure adequate funding. This is an important matter, and—if true-would be a powerful argument for a more centralized structure—such as, say, a Department of Science. But would such a single agency be more effective in dealing with its two authorization and two appropriation subcommittees in the House and Senate than several agencies with their several committees? I must leave the answer to that to those of you

who are more experienced in the behavior of congressional committees. My limited experience leads me to have some grave doubts.

But if university people have only the one argument of leverage or funding to propose a different science structure, why is it that many of us in Government are so carefully examining this problem?

There are several reasons. First, we, in Government, like to see neat organizational and management structures. The present multiplicity is admittedly confusing to Government administrators and legislators. We worry about coordination and efficiency and budgetary management.

Second, we find the distressing fact that in a number of fields of science of broad national interest-such as, marine science, atmospheric science, environmental science, and other areas—it is hard to bring the several agencies with responsibilities in such fields together to implement an adequate and an adequately balanced national program.

The various mission agencies have other responsibilities and priorities, and these may not add up to an adequate total program. From the point of view of my own responsibilities, this is a most serious defect in our present system. I will return to this later.

Let me digress now for a moment to remind you again that I have so far confined my attention to the problems of science rather than technology-and especially to academic science.

The management of science and of technology present very different problems. In science, particularly basic science, the individual research worker at the bench is the only possible “manager.” As I have already said, not the department chairman, not the university president or director of research, and surely not a Government official, can manage the creative process. Administrators can help the scientist by providing funds, doing the necessary purchasing and accounting and payroll handling and all the rest. But all these functions must only support and not direct the work of the scientist himself. It is true that when a large and expensive accelerator or telescope or other facility is involved, the chief scientist or laboratory director must perform a management function to see that the facility is effectively and productively used. But even he must be the kind of a manager who can enlist cooperation among his colleagues-still leaving the individual investigators freedom to direct their own experiments. Elaborate man

agement structures are not appropriate in scientific work-whether the structure is in the department, the university, or the Government.

Now the reverse situation is necessary in technology—the process of using scientific knowledge to attain a specific desired goal, whether that goal be a spacecraft to go to the moon, a new military weapon, a new industrial process, or a new consumer product.

To mobilize the talent and facilities to achieve such an objective requires management skills of the highest order. The Apollo project, for example, has required the most elaborate and sophisticated systems management structure, extending from the Administrator of NASA down through his staff structure, out into the laboratories and contractor facilities clear down to the worker at the bench, in the production line or at the launching facility. When 200,000 people are working toward a single objective, extraordinary management and leadership skills are essential to success.

By contrast to NASA, the head of the National Science Foundation does not manage the work of any of the scientists which his agency supports. 'He couldn't, he wouldn't, and it would spoil the whole enterprise if he tried. The NSF Director only manages an expert staff of his own whose job is to find the best investigators and to support them and see that the taxpayers' money is prudently accounted for.

It is absolutely essential when we are talking about the management of research to specify whether we are talking about science or technology-whether we are talking about the discovery of new knowledge or the application to specific ends of the knowledge we already have. Even though science sometimes merges almost imperceptibly into applied science and technology, the broad management principles I have stated still apply. A prime motto which we in Government must keep in mind is: We manage technology but we do not manage science. Or to put it another way: We must manage the process of technology; but we manage only the support of science. In technology we manage people; in the support of science, we only manage money.

The outstanding question to face them is whether we in Government manage properly the Federal funds for science. Do we manage those funds in such a way as to get the maximum benefits from our scientific endeavor and the healthiest possible broad base of science which is so important to our country's future?

Here we are at the heart of the problem and at the heart of our difficulty. We must sadly admit that both in the executive and legislative branches the management of Federal funding is inadequate indeed.

Let us take a look at how we do manage funds for science and, again, I am speaking of science now, not technology. Many of the independent agencies of Government have found that in order to pursue and achieve their respective missions, they must put scientific knowledge to work. They must, in other words, carry on and support programs—sometimes very extensive programs—in applied science and technology. These programs range from the development of new weapons and techniques of defense, new mechanisms and facilities for space exploration, improved atomic weapons and nuclear reactors, on to new techniques for building houses, new transportation systems, new technologies for controlling air and water pollution and for improving the health of our people, and so on. We spend many billions

of dollars a year on these technological enterprises-and we must admit we have seen some pretty spectacular results. We do much better in financing some of these enterprises than others, but in general, when our Government knows what it wants in the technological field, we can find ways of getting it. And I say this in spite of our slowness in solving problems in urban housing, environmental control and other areas where political and other factors intervene to frustrate our attempts to put our technology to work.

However, my point right now is this: In a large number of these technological enterprises the Government agencies find that the scientific knowledge needed to implement their technology is often incomplete. To pursue our applied goals in medicine and public health, we need more basic knowledge in microbiology, genetics, biochemistry, and other areas.

In atomic energy, in space exploration, in defense, our technological efforst uncover gaps in our basic knowledge in physics, chemistry, geophysics, fluid mechanics, electronics, information science, and many other areas. As we attempt to build a superstructure of applied science and technology on the foundation of fundamental science, we often find that the foundation is inadequate and incomplete and we realize clearly how much more we could do if our basic science foundation were only strengthened. Realizing this, what do we do? We in Government do a very proper and necessary thing. We encourage every agency, which has major technological enterprises underway to spend a portion of its funds to support fundamental science. Such agencies select those areas of fundamental science which appear to be most relevant to their agency missions, although the term "relevance" needs to be interpreted broadly since the results of science are always in part unforeseeable.

Nevertheless, some 80 to 85 percent of the Federal support of fundamental science in this country comes from the mission agencies who need a more adequate base of new knowledge to carry on their applied work and to insure that they will be able to meet future needs. All this is fine and appropriate. It is, in fact, quite astonishing that the sum total of all the needs of all mission agencies has added up to such a broad and healthy scientific enterprise in this country--including an extensive effort to train new scientists and engineers.

But, just here we meet our difficulties. It would hardly be expected that the sum total of all the mission agency needs, and the sum total of all the funds they have available, would inevitably and always add up to a total scientific program which either meets our capacities or fills our needs in all important fields. Nor would it be expected that the actions of all these departments and agencies, struggling independently with their budget problems, would always result in a total support of science which is adequately stable and adequately growing in such a way as to reap maximum dividends from the Nation's scientific talents. In recent years we have been made, as the chairman has indicated, vividly aware of just these weaknesses and inadequacies of our present system.

Now many years ago, during the closing days of World War II, this situation was foreseen by Dr. Vannevar Bush and some of his colleagues who prepared the brilliant and pioneering report entitled “Science,

the Endless Frontier.” That report pointed out that there must be an independent agency which has the health and welfare of our Nation's total scientific enterprise as its sole mission and function. After that report it took 4 years of delay and legislative difficulties, but finally such an agency was created in 1950 and called the National Science Foundation.

At last, most of us thought, we have just the Government mechanism we need to supplement the efforts of the mission agencies, to formulate and insure the support of a broad and adequate national scientific program.

What happened!

Well, the NSF has had a brilliant record. It has been a prime mainstay of our academic science effort. It has given support to many areas of science which did not come, or did not come adequately, within the purview of the mission agencies. It did put a great new effort behind the progress of graduate education in the sciences and has even contributed greatly to improving science education in the colleges and high schools. It has done much more—and yet we face today the feeling of many people that our Federal science structure is inadequate.

Why is it inadequate? Well, my own feeling is simply that the vision óf Vannevar Bush and many others has never been adequately conveyed to the Congress and the people of this country. We are a practical-minded people and we see the values of scientific work when it yields immediately practical results. But we are not always foresighted people.

We are less ready to invest our money in things whose dividends may accrue only at some time in the distant future or whose practical results may not be foreseeable at all. We in America have failed to see that it is the total structure of scientific knowledge that makes new practical applications possible—not usually just a single discovery whose results were foreseen in advance. Also we have never visualized our scientific enterprise as a great humane undertaking and a great cultural endeavor-one which has lifted the minds and spirits and supported the achievements of men for hundreds of years.

For all these and other reasons the National Science Foundation has failed to receive the appropriations it has needed to fulfill its obligations and opportunities. If the NSF had grown more rapidly we would, I suspect, not be worried today about our faltering scientific enterprise. We would not be worried about the huge gaps we see in fruitful and important scientific fields.

Let me give some concrete examples.

The Congress and many American people have been concerned in recent years that we are giving inadequate attention to the many areas of marine science. Many mission agencies of Government are indeed interested and concerned with the oceans, our coastal waters and estuaries, including the vast and mysterious motions of the seas which play an important role in our weather, and including the nature, preservation and enhancement of the seas' great resources of living things.

The mission agencies today spend nearly $500 million a year on the applied science and technology of the oceans. But if some areas of marine science are still neglected, it might be desirable to seek an increased budget for the National Science Foundation to supplement its already excellent program in this area.

« PreviousContinue »