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Dr. Bordogna's Remarks


Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Acting Deputy Director and
Chief Operating Officer
NSF 50 Public Advisory Committee Meeting

October 15-16, 1998

Good morning. It's good to see everyone and wonderful to have such an esteemed group gathered here today.

This 50th anniversary celebration can symbolize a turning point in both NSF's history, as well as, in the history of science and engineering. The NSF was born at the beginning of the Cold War, a constrained period of world history that has left complex marks on every facet of our society.

This November marks nine years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the conversion of the Cold War into a yet undefined era for all nations and all institutions.

At the same time that the world is changing politically, socially, and economically, the world of science and engineering is also undergoing significant change.

Today, sophisticated tools and technology and a large research cadre have altered, accelerated, and enriched the process of science and engineering to make it quite different from what we became used to. We are just glimpsing the beginning of this impact.

As the theme for NSF 50 states, "Where Discoveries Begin" - one thing we do anticipate is that the greatest discoveries are yet to come.

We have asked each of you to participate in the process of retelling NSF's story in order to envision a path for its future. Each of you brings a perspective unique to your own experiences and a wisdom to be enlisted on behalf of the Foundation's future contributions.

The times and the tools may distinguish that future. But people of foresight and vision will direct it down an enlightened path. This is a formidable task. As George Santayana has said, "Our knowledge is a torch of smoking pine that lights the pathway but one step ahead."

Together with NSF and the National Science Board, the NSF 50 Public Advisory Committee will strengthen NSF's anniversary celebration.

As members of this Committee, your charge will be to reach out to the larger community of scientists, engineers, researchers and educators, and encourage them to participate in this occasion through whatever activities they deem appropriate.

You will also be asked to help organize a special retrospective symposium at NSF, about NSF and its achievements in the last 50 years.

As leaders from the community of science and engineering, your experience and historical vantage point are key components of the work that will be done here. They will inform the Foundation, as well as build on the activities that will embody the celebration of NSF's first 50 years.

Your reach beyond NSF is especially critical and will serve to enhance the celebration. The activities you fashion -- in your communities and at your own institutions -- will elevate this anniversary event, and provide a far-reaching vision of the value of scientific and engineering research and education.

By enlisting you in the celebration of NSF's first 50 years, our hope is that the public-at-large will gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the basis for the country's world leadership in scientific advancement.

And NSF 50 is certainly a time to mark our nation's support of science and engineering through the National Science Foundation.

It is also an opportunity to broaden public understanding of the significant role that science and engineering play in our society and our everyday lives.

More than this though, NSF 50 is about the future. By highlighting the Foundation's legacy of the last 50 years, we can lay the groundwork for what might be possible in the next 50 years.

Whether it's new TERA and PETA tools for navigating the digital fabric of our information age, or nanomachines that increasingly undergird our daily lives, or just plain realizing the formerly unimaginable, NSF-supported breakthroughs tell a story, and provide a dramatic foreshadowing.

As we all know, it is a critical time in which the public, policy makers, and the science and engineering community are reexamining and shaping the rationale and framework for continued federal support for science and engineering research and education.

The Ehlers Report, as well as the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee, to name two recent relevant activities, provide evidence of the discussions held to direct attention to the important topics of the future.

Within the context of these endeavors, NSF 50 appears to be even more relevant as we contemplate the health and welfare of the nation's science and engineering enterprise in the year 2000 and beyond.

As you get down to the business before you, I will leave you with the words of Albert Camus who said, "Real generosity toward the future consists in giving all to what is present."

I thank you again for providing your talents and energies for the purpose of celebrating not only NSF's past, but perhaps more important, helping to shape a legacy for its future.



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