Dr. Neal Lane
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE
ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE
February 13, 1998
A NEW BOUNTY AND ITS NEW DEMANDS(As prepared)
Good morning. The NSF Director part of me is delighted to be here this morning. The devoted "chocolate eater" part of me is in serious conflict. Let me explain. This AAAS affiliates' meeting coincides with the AAAS seminar on "chocolate." When I learned that there would be chocolate "tasting" at the seminar my loyalties became confused. Please do not take this personally but you know how it is with "chocoholics." I will do my best to stay focused on science.
In a more serious vein, I hope that my remarks here will serve as catalyst for a stimulating, and even provocative, dialogue to follow. I want to note also that my use of the word science always includes engineering research; the word science here is a short form of the longer phrase.
With the details of the President's budget release a few days ago, and a little time to digest the science, technology and education portion, I think that many in the science community started humming a modified version of "What a Difference a Day Makes." Perhaps the tune is called "What a Difference a Year (or two) Makes."
It was not very long ago that many of us, myself included, were talking about the proposed cuts in the science budget as being "a risky national experiment," and they would have been just that. Some used the term "draconian" to describe the projections, and our concerns were great. Now we are optimistic and enthusiastic at the proposed reversal of that scenario.
I want to personally thank the entire science and technology community, many of you in particular, for your involvement over the last few years. These changes could not have taken place without your engagement and effort.
Last October, you collectively supported a petition to the President and members of Congress to double the federal investment in research over the next 10 years. Your community unity and articulation of the benefits of research have been important messages to policy makers and the public.
There has been increasing Congressional awareness of the pervasive contributions of research to our national welfare. Senators Gramm and Lieberman introduced a bill to double the federal research budget in ten years. And Congressman James Sensenbrenner, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, clearly identified the challenge for us when he said, "...as we enter the next millennium, our nation faces many challenges that can be met only by enhancing the country's scientific and technical base."
The collective recognition about the contributions of science and technology has coincided with a good and growing economy, an assured balanced budget, and record low unemployment.
President Clinton's R&D budget has provided the final catalyst for this process. To me it brought back memories of what candidate Clinton said in his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in 1992, "A President ought to be a powerful force for progress." The President's budget proposal for science and technology is a giant step for "progress." And in about two hours, he will be here in person to speak about the task ahead for us.
If enacted, the proposed R&D budget will represent one of the largest dollar increases ever for civilian research and development. We have many reasons to be optimistic.
This budget confirms not only our community's past achievements but it also represents an unequivocal vote of confidence in our role in the future prosperity of the nation. We should feel proud of that past as we look forward to the future.
In a sense this is not just a vote of confidence, but also an important challenge for all of us. These projected increases for science come at a propitious time historically, and reflect new responsibilities for the science community and for the nation's electorate. This task has been emerging over several years, but the current increases and optimism compel us to advance what are essentially new perspectives on science.
It is clear we've moved beyond thinking that it will be sufficient to expand the science system in replication of itself. I would say that we need to understand this juncture as "A New Bounty With New Demands," which is the title of this talk.
The last fifty years of science have yielded a cornucopia of knowledge and innovation. More money for science, however, does not necessarily mean expanding the same system that was driven by post-World War II needs. Some have even questioned the idea of expansion and have called for something that more closely resembles a reorientation based on future needs.
It has been almost a decade since the end of the Cold War and all the rhetoric of how things have changed, and must change, and will change. As this vision of shifting and movement becomes clearer, we can begin to see the past as one pattern, and the present and future as a new pattern.
For example, we know that there were decades when technological innovation in the marketplace came primarily via the route of defense supported research. Today civilian research is a more frequent pathway to commercial application.
We know there was also more than a decade of discussion and agitation about "the competitiveness issue." Now we have seen this clarify and crystallize into something we understand instead as globalization, where competition and collaboration are not mutually exclusive.
We know that through the 1970s the federal government was the primary provider of research funding across the nation. However, since then, the broader distribution of research and development activities across many sectors, public and private, has been accompanied by a shift in the research funding pattern.
Industry has assumed a growing portion of the funding responsibility. This broader research distribution has also made partnerships and cross-sector connections a necessary component of almost all research. We are coming to appreciate the added value and benefits of this new collaborative approach.
We know that for forty years we perceived the Iron Curtain as intractable. And we were stunned to witness its peaceful disintegration, as much the result of ubiquitous information technology as perhaps the development of armaments and the stockpiling of weapons.
That same ubiquitous information technology is changing some of our universities, as we speak. In fact, we are witnessing the restructuring of many aspects of American culture through the convergence of diverse information networks.
It has taken these eight years to begin to recognize the "tectonics" of a very different geopolitical structure. I would suggest that this transition is still in motion but that the picture is coming into focus. Now, as this new reality becomes more central, we must examine the meaning and objectives of science in this different "schema" for both domestic goals and for global goals.
The poet T.S. Eliot, in his poem Four Quartets (Burnt Norton), wrote, "Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future, and time future contained in the past." Although this may sound like an enigma at first, it seems to offer some wisdom to address the task of planning science's future. To be far less than poetic, what we have done in science in the past, and in the here and now, is significant, and to be less than humble, even magnificent. Those things already exist as a force in future science.
T he danger is to think that those achievements dictate that nothing should change in our approach to science in the future. Instead, the influence of the past should give us the confidence and courage to use this experience in different directions for different goals.
In the early '90s, Stuart Leslie, an historian of science at Johns Hopkins University, wrote a book called "The Cold War and American Science." Speaking about the marriage of those two things, he wrote, "No one now can go back to the beginning of the Cold War and follow those paths not taken. No one can assert with any confidence exactly where a science and engineering driven by other assumptions and priorities would have taken us...."
If we are to have research in science and engineering driven by assumptions different from the Cold War, how do we initiate such an effort? Well sometimes a forceful public figure presents the very framework for such a discussion long before our examination and dialogue start in earnest.
Historically, one such public figure was Socrates, who paid with his life for trying to introduce "new ideas" into an old system. Although we lost a great thinker, we fortunately did not also lose his thinking.
In more recent times, we gratefully have become more civilized in dealing with public figures whose ideas are a little ahead of the mainstream. We often come to respect them for "wisdom" and "foresight" even when we postpone or ignore their advice.
Among those visionaries one can surely count Congressman George Brown, a social philosopher and strong supporter of science. In a 1994 speech at Yale University, he said, "To begin moving in a new direction, we must begin looking at issues and problems in a new way. ...[For example,] from now on economics and environment increasingly will become integrated. We will not be able to consider one without the other. ...[In higher education] we must have the courage and creativity to imagine 'different futures' for our universities."
This segment portrays some of the breadth of change that Brown envisions as part of a post-Cold War science agenda. The thrust of his thinking has a global or planetary sweep.
In commenting on the impact of this change, Brown says, "This new agenda, by its very nature, will upset the status quo in our research system and in many of our [other] institutions. ...Hindsight will surely instruct us that this was a time of vast uprooting and change. But if we have foresight, we can harness this time to unique advantage."
It is important for us to focus especially on his conclusion that with some foresight we can use this time to considerable advantage. We must make decisions now that we will see in hindsight as having been wise choices.
Well, how do we think this way in terms of a science agenda that is post-Cold War, that addresses our social and economic goals for an ever burgeoning global population while always protecting the environment, that prevents disease instead of having to cure it, that prevents war and other outbreaks before they turn violent, and that warns us of dangerous turns of nature so we can prepare?
The scope and precision of our scientific and technological reach today gives us many of the tools to think with anticipation and foresight. It is this new and multifaceted science that allows us to move from remediation to prevention and preservation in diverse fields. What an exciting time to be in science and engineering! Extraordinary possibilities await us!
And in this new time in science, we have been fortunate to have the astute perspective of scholars such as Donald Stokes, who for 18 years served as dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. His seminal work, Pasteur's Quadrant, was completed just before his death a year ago, In it, Stokes has helped us to understand why the terms basic research and applied research have misled us to believe that great science and useful science were mutually exclusive. He documents repeatedly the synergy -- not the separation -- in research. He recasts our view of understanding and use as happening simultaneously and feeding each other.
I believe that Stokes' views will move the science community toward greater unanimity as it attempts to address the increased expectations and demands on science today. The more knowledge we generate and the more problems we solve, the higher the expectations rise. We have heard them voiced by the President, the Congress, and the electorate. There are few compliments greater than this and I believe we will meet the challenge.
These increased expectations for the work of science and scientists are directly related to science's new agenda. More frequently world leadership will be defined in economic and social terms and excellence in science and technology will be its well-spring.
But, earlier, I spoke of this new agenda as the responsibility of both the science community and the electorate. The electorate will be a partner in helping determine the expectations and the agenda. Immediately one would ask how we get those two distant groups together and thinking about the future of science?
For over two years now, I have been talking about the role and responsibility of being a "civic scientist." In short, this means a scientist who engages the public in a dialogue about science and society. In that exchange, the scientist offers a perspective of the contributions and value of science in society to a public interested but not very literate about science issues. At the same time, the scientist gains a grassroots understanding of the public's perception of societal problems and its expectations of how science can contribute to solutions. This is not a formula or equation, but rather a description of desired outcomes.
We in the science and engineering community know that we can no longer expect to plan the full research agenda solely within the circle of our own community. On the other hand, planning the science agenda without the active participation of scientists and engineers will create disappointing results all around. Thus the role of the civic scientist becomes a critical and integral part of developing a new science agenda for a post-Cold War world.
And an important combination for the success of the civic scientist concept and for framing a new agenda will be the relationship of scientists and journalists. A recently completed one-year study on how the news media interact with and report on the scientific community confirms that the two groups, journalists and scientists, are Worlds Apart, the title the authors chose for their final report. I highly recommend the report to all of you and to all journalists who cover science issues.
The conclusion is that the public comes up short as a result of either no dialogue between scientists and journalists or a dialogue only in name where the two groups "talk past each other." The responsibility for this impasse probably rests equally with each group. I sense a desire on both sides to bridge this gulf. Working to improve this dialogue is yet another challenge for the science community.
An exciting and formidable time lies ahead for us. We have both national optimism and support for our task in moving America from a post-World War II agenda to a post-Cold War agenda in science. The outcome can be a more benevolent future for all citizens in all nations as we contemplate "those paths not taken."
I think we should count ourselves most fortunate for this window to create real change. We should be exhilarated and a little intimidated by the opportunity. We should use it wisely because much of the prosperity of America's future will depend on it.