University of Pennsylvania
September 12, 1996
I am delighted with this opportunity to meet with faculty members today. I am reminded of the Japanese proverb, "To teach is to learn." I know that I am among a very learned group, a community of teacher/scholars. It is an honor to be with you. My visit to Penn has been thoroughly enjoyable and I appreciate this great university's hospitality. The chance I had to meet with Penn graduate and undergraduate students earlier today demonstrated what I already know, that the wealth of our future can be found right here on university campuses, paticularly at institutions like Penn.
Our students exemplify the old Chinese wisdom that:
If your are planning for a year, sow rice.
If you are planning for a decade, plant a tree.
If you are planning for a lifetime, educate a person.
In that vein, I have entitled my talk this afternoon "Building Intellectual Capital to Meet the Challenges of the Future." I want to talk about teaching and learning and the role of the National Science Foundation to improve both across all disciplines of science and engineering.
In today's high-powered, high technology society, a nation's human resources, its intellectual people-power, represent its most valuable asset. For the National Science Foundation, working in partnership with universities, this means that, in addition to advancing knowledge, we must ensure a scientifically and technologically literate population.
This task will require a multiplicity of approaches and will pose perhaps the most formidable challenge. Surely one approach is to strengthen the interplay between research and education at all levels of schooling. Another is to use the natural connection between the two to reinforce public understanding of the value of science and technology and support for the federal investment in research.
In a speech at Cornell, Chuck Vest, President of MIT said that:
"The most valuable and farsighted concept from the original [Vannevar] Bush vision was that by supporting research in universities, the government would also be investing in the education of the next generation--a beautiful and efficient concept. In short, every dollar spent would be doing double duty. This integration of teaching and research is at the heart of America's unique system of research universities."
We at the NSF feel strongly that we must emphasize the strengths of the research university as a locus for the federal research investment because research in the educational context has proven so effective for this nation for over four decades. At the same time, we want to be sure that the federal research investment enhances the educational capabilities of universities and does not in any way detract from them or be perceived as doing so.
It is particularly appropriate that I address this subject here, for I believe that it was the need to build intellectual capital that inspired Benjamin Franklin to establish the University of Pennsylvania. He didn't use the phrase "intellectual capital", but the concept was there. Franklin favored the idea of a holistic education that exposed students to the humanities, economics, mathematics, mechanics--today, we would say "technology"--and science. More importantly, he felt that education should go beyond the classroom lecture and into the realm of discovery. Benjamin Franklin believed that this kind of education was necessary for an individual to become a good citizen and enjoy a better quality of life. Fortunately, he did not recommend, let alone make it a requirement, for all Penn students to fly kites during thunderstorms!
Franklin's conviction holds true today. There is no natural boundary, and there should be no artificial one, between research and education. Connected together they exemplify Franklin's ideal of a holistic education. This reminds me of a comment made by an anonymous professor in response to a survey conducted by Oak Ridge Associated Universities on the subject of teaching and research. He stated that "It would appear to me that if one...acknowledges that research is essentially teaching oneself, while instruction is teaching others, the interrelationship and symbiotic relationship between the two is inescapable." I would venture to say that as a scientist and an educator, Franklin would agree.
Unfortunately, the threat of reductions in federal R&D spending may cut Franklin's legacy off at the knees, just when we need to be making the investments necessary for the U.S. to continue to be a world leader in the 21st century.
When it comes to research funding, I often tell people the devil is not in the details, it's in the totals. You may read about the so-called "out-year projections" of NSF's or NASA's or other budget through the year 2002. We don't place great currency in those projections because those numbers are revisited every year by the President and the Congress when they set the actual budget for the year.
However, the aggregated totals projected for the major categories of federal spending do deserve our attention, particularly the category known as domestic discretionary spending. This includes most of what we think of as the day-to-day running of the government--parks, highways, prisons, NSF, NASA, NIH and most of DOE, NEA, EPA and scores of other programs and agencies. It always surprises people to learn that this category makes up less than 1/6 of the total federal budget.
Of significant concern right now is that this 1/6 sliver is slated to bear the lion's share of the spending reductions needed to balance the budget. In fact, this 1/6 slice is expected to drop to 1/7 of the pie by 2002 according to most projections. That reflects a decline in purchasing power of some 20 percent. And although we cannot predict exactly how this will affect any agency, we do know that there will be increased competition for funds from this shrinking slice of the pie.
This budgetary reality is exacerbated by recent media scrutiny about research and education in America's universities. When the issue of research and education is raised by a TV report or newspaper article, the end result is rarely productive or completely accurate. The dominant images too often portray research and teaching in conflict, suggesting that they are mutually exclusive activities. Lately, it seems that once or twice a year, a firestorm of controversy ignites around this issue.
About 18 months ago, it was CBS's "60 Minutes" that suggested that positive educational experiences in large universities were being undercut by too much attention to research. And, earlier this year, an article in the Chicago Tribune suggested that tuition dollars are often used inappropriately to supplement research at major universities. The Tribune, to its credit, corrected the many serious inaccuracies in the article and even issued an editorial several days later affirming the value of learning in the research university. Nevertheless, the residual image in the public mind is that research is incompatible with teaching--and that research and education are competing forces. We seldom hear about the fruitful interplay between research and teaching, and the ways that research and education reinforce each other.
This issue has been discussed in Congressional hearings, as well as in the media, and the controversy is not likely to go away soon. Clearly the federal agencies that fund university research and the universities themselves will be held increasingly accountable to see that research and education are balanced. This may seem like a daunting task, and "balance" is not quite the right concept, I see it as an opportunity to strengthen the ties between research and education, rather than "balancing" them. Most importantly, it is an opportunity to validate for the American people the complementary contributions of both and the role of federal support for both. This connection to society is crucial because it has an impact on public support for science.
Part of the problem is that the public, including media people and most elected representatives, have had no experience to help them understand the nature of research and why it is so important and worthy of taxpayer support. We are all challenged to help correct this problem by getting the word out.
Earlier this year, right here at Penn, you celebrated a stellar example of how a small amount of federal funding can catalyze an intellectual and commercial revolution. And it is precisely this revolution that makes the need to integrate research and education even more important today. I am speaking of the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), the world's first general purpose, electronic digital computer, which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. In honor of the occasion, Vice President Al Gore spoke on this campus in February about how federal funding helped "spark" the information age. The development of the ENIAC by Penn engineers and scientists was one of the crucial first steps to the development of the computer industry as we know it today and also the academic field of computer and information science.
NSF has also made important contributions, such as the NSFnet, which is often referred to as the backbone of the Internet. The World Wide Web browser Mosaic was developed by a student at the NSF's National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. Evolving in the private sector as Netscape Navigator, we all know what impact this is having on our personal lives, our jobs, and societal change--and the career of the student enabled by that NSF investment.
In his speech here at Penn, Vice President Gore commented on the evolution of the era of distributed intelligence. He said,
"In the beginning of the mainframe computer era, computers relied almost totally on huge central processing units surrounded by large fields of memory....Then along came a new architecture called massive parallelism. This broke up the processing power into lots of tiny processors that were then distributed throughout the field of memory....It turns out that for most problems, this approach--the distributed intelligence approach--is more effective."
Following this concept path of a distributed approach, one emerging thrust in NSF's portfolio is something we call learning and intelligent systems. It represents the coalescing of many diverse areas of science and engineering--from cognition and linguistics to computing and algorithms. We are recognizing so many connections across disparate fields of science and engineering that shed light on how we humans learn and acquire information and how this differs -- or does not differ -- from how learning occurs in other organisms and in man-made systems. One gets the sense that we are on the verge of a revolutionary set of breakthroughs.
With these new advances of the information revolution come increasing and changing needs for education. In order to keep up with the demands of the future and maintain our leadership in science and engineering, we need to make investments in education and research today that are insightful about this information elevated future. This reminds me of the adage attributed to both Niels Bohr and Yogi Berra. "Predictions are difficult, especially about the future." Although we can't always predict these future needs, we will be able to rise to the occasion if we have the necessary intellectual capital. This requires a workforce that is inspired by inquiry and discovery, as well as adept at critical thinking.
Wherever possible and appropriate, education in the context of discovery allows the findings and methods of research to be quickly and effectively communicated to a broader audience. And in turn, a scientifically and technologically literate American public will be better prepared to meet the challenges of the future and understand the importance of continued federal support for research and education. As we teach and learn, it is essential that we emphasize to students the need to generate new ideas and approaches and let them share in the excitement that comes with discovery. Education in a research-rich environment can accomplish this.
Integrating research and education can be achieved at all levels of education -- K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and beyond to community-based education programs. I mention community-based education because it is a venue we as scientists and engineers are not accustomed to working in, but one that will become increasingly important if public support for research is to continue. In this era of budget balancing and shrinking government, there is increased competition, as I said earlier, for a diminished pot of gold. Science can only be funded if the electorate and their representatives remain convinced of its value and contribution. Community-based education efforts that demonstrate the exchange between research and education can illustrate the importance of this exchange to America's continued competitiveness in the 21st century.
On July 25, I brought this message to the Rotary Club of Arlington, Virginia. A month earlier, NSF celebrated National Science and Technology Week. During this celebration, scientists and engineers all over the country take part in programs aimed at heightening public awareness of the importance of science and engineering to our daily lives and our future.
I am sure there are many opportunities here in the University of Pennsylvania community to do the same.
Today, we are gathered in the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM), which has a strong NSF-supported summer research fellowship program for undergraduates. I like this program because it allows students to spend a summer learning and doing research in materials science and engineering under the guidance of a faculty member. Let me also mention again the ENIAC. I understand that a group of Penn faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates, funded by an NSF grant, have successfully recreated the ENIAC on a computer chip smaller than a postage stamp (a "smart stamp"). Students that participate in programs such as these do get a sense of the excitement of discovery, which will serve them in whatever careers they choose to follow. It is important that we publicize and expand on these endeavors.
At NSF, we are continually seeking new ways to stimulate the dynamic interplay between research and education, and we are working on a broad set of efforts, many of them experimental in nature. A cornerstone of our efforts is the CAREER program for beginning faculty that supports both their research and their involvement in education linked to that research. One awardee, for example, is studying new ways to use computer programming to improve engineering education and helping students to use computers in the same way practicing engineers do--for problem solving, team coordination, and modeling.
Another awardee's work improves mathematics education at the elementary school level by developing classroom and computer materials that will help students understand why objects in nature assume the shapes they do in response to the physical environment. We are making a significant commitment to the CAREER program by effectively doubling it to $73 million in our FY 1997 budget request.
NSF has also framed two separate initiatives to help highlight, reward, further encourage, and disseminate information on successful examples of integrated education and research.
At the undergraduate level, some institutions have begun bold initiatives to improve learning of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology by all students through programs that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries. These colleges and universities have started to reorient the undergraduate learning experience. I am sure this is happening here on the Penn campus.
In 1997, NSF expects to make between 20-25 awards of about $200,000 each to assist institutions that are exemplary in this revitalization effort and wish to further extend and deepen these approaches in their institution's psyche and practice.
The second initiative is directed toward 137 research universities. You will immediately ask, why these particular institutions? According to NSF's most recent Science and Engineering Indicators, we know that across all institutions the trend in faculty responsibility in science and engineering is clearly toward research. The share of those faculty members reporting that research is their primary responsibility has increased from 19 percent in 1973 to 33 percent in 1993. Conversely, the share naming teaching as their primary responsibility has declined from 69 percent to 53 percent over the same period. The trend in work responsibility at research universities shows an even larger percentage naming research as their primary responsibility.
In order to encourage these major research universities to be introspective, to examine their own programs, and to carefully document their achievements in integrating research and education, NSF is sponsoring a ONE TIME Recognition Award.
We know that there have been many effective and instructive efforts that have moved institutions toward the interdependence of research, teaching, and public service. NSF's new Recognition Award is intended to be in the forefront of recognizing, rewarding, and helping to replicate these achievements throughout the research university structure.
Our intent is to reward up to 10 universities among the applicants $500,000 each to enhance their already successful efforts, and to document and disseminate information on their institution's unique approach and outcome. The reward is intended for documented accomplishment, not for some future potential. Part of each winners award money MUST be committed to broad dissemination of material about those successful examples. The goal is to advertise the many models and methods for integrating research and education. The Foundation's staff will also learn from all of the applicants by expanding our own understanding in order to improve future programs.
I do not want to leave the false impression that our only aim is to reinforce the success stories of integrating research and education. I believe that many parts of our system of higher education are at risk and that we cannot afford to be complacent. In some cases the task will be to reinvigorate a system that has grown fallow over time.
If the Foundation has, by historical evolution, contributed to a growing imbalance between research and education, as I believe is the case, all the more reason for us to proactive in helping to reverse that trend.
Some might question what difference it makes to the nation if the principle of integrating research and integration is practiced or not. There are many reasons, but let me name just one -- the one I believe to be of greatest long-term value. As I said earlier, discovery is the deepest and surest way to learn because you teach yourself. Thus the inherent benefit in integrating the two is that students at all educational levels will always be "learning how to learn." This is perhaps the singular most valuable skill to instill in our workforce and general population. In a world where people will have not just one career but several, skills must be applicable and transferable, not site specific and narrow.
I think that I have gone on long past my welcome. Clearly, I have a certain passion for the subject.
In closing, I would like to return to the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, who noted that "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." NSF is trying to do its part to make this investment. But, it is the colleges and universities that must be at the core of this effort. They are the best suited to provide the leadership and initiative to ensure that America receives the greatest return on its investment. Those institutions that envision research and education as a continuum that cannot be separated will be the most successful. At NSF, we are looking forward to working with universities to provide the necessary leadership to meet the very real challenges universities and the nation will face for in the future.
Again, thank you for inviting me to join you this afternoon. I'll be happy to take any questions you might have.