"...I have had the opportunity to work on a wide range of issues as
the Assistant to President Bush for Science and Technology, but
none has been more important to me than those issues involving the
health of this nation's research-intensive universities."
- D. Allan Bromley
In one of his final acts as President Bush's science adviser, Allan
Bromley has released two reports authored by White House panels:
"Renewing the Promise: Research-Intensive Universities and the
Nation," and "In the National Interest: The Federal Government and
During a White House briefing, Bromley noted that the partnership
between the federal government and the approximately 170
research-intensive universities has "paid tremendous dividends."
He acknowledged that important changes in the world (the end of the
Cold War, emergence of new economic superpowers, environmental
concerns, etc.) have stressed universities and their relationship
to the federal government.
Both reports make a number of recommendations to ease this stress.
A major, and what will be a controversial recommendation, in
Bromley's words, is: "...universities must focus on what they do
best and on what only they can do." Bromley and panel members
acknowledge implementing this recommendation will entail painful
choices, including the elimination or downsizing of departments
that are less than world-class quality. The reports recommend
applications-specific work being the responsibility of industry,
with federal laboratories doing large and long-range programmatic
studies or research involving very large, frontier facilities.
"Renewing the Promise..." warns that the expansive funding provided
in the 1960s and early 1980s is unlikely to return. Universities
are cautioned against starting programs that the nation will be
unable to fully fund. "The overall system should not be
significantly expanded," said Princeton University President Harold
Shapiro, Vice-Chairman of the President's Council of Advisors on
Science and Technology.
Universities should strengthen their commitment to teaching, and
efforts must be undertaken to restore public confidence in
universities. Federal support of universities must be improved.
Shapiro also said that industry and universities must change their
perceptions: "Each group looks down on the other, and much in the
way of cultural change needs to be accomplished all around."
Finally, new scholarship mechanisms are proposed.
The reports are seen as the first step of an examination of the R&D
system in a post Cold War environment. Companion studies of the
federal laboratories and U.S. industrial research are planned.
Both reports make for very interesting reading. To obtain a set of
the reports, contact NSF at 202-357-5000 or e-mail to pubs [at] nsf.gov
(Internet) or pubs@nsf (BITNET) and request publication #92-223.