OSTP Director Gibbons on Role of Scientists in Policy Formulation

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Publication date: 
7 July 1995

At a June 26 AAAS Forum, John Gibbons, Director of the Office of
Science and Technology Policy, addressed the role which scientists
should play in policy formulation.  A portion of his remarks on
this subject, and the relationship between basic and applied
research, follow:

"The Congress assumes that basic research can be neatly separated
from applied research and development.  That's just plain wrong.
In today's society, where science and technology so thoroughly
permeate our lives, these sharp distinctions can no longer be

"This month's Physics Today provides an elegant example.  In an
effort to compensate for the flaw in the Hubble Telescope's primary
mirror, workers at the Space Telescope Science Institute developed
a large collection of image-processing software.  The software acts
to help spot faint stars in blurry images.  It turns out that
finding that faint star is a lot like finding microcalcifications
-- faint spots in a blurry mammogram image that can signal breast

"How do we make sure that these kinds of breakthroughs keep
happening, and that they bear fruit across the R&D spectrum and for
all Americans?"

"...I want to emphasize that the primary responsibility for making
the case to Congress and the American people belongs to the science
and technology community.  We are the ones who are the most
familiar with both the potential and the limitations of science and
technology.  As C.P. Snow once wrote, `Scientists have the future
in their bones.'  It is our obligation to convey that sense of the
future to others.

"If we are to reverse the substantial momentum that lies behind
proposed cuts in science and technology, we need to engage many
different communities: the R&D community, the industrial community,
the education community -- ultimately the entire American populace,
because they are the ones who will suffer the most from these

"But none of us will get a full meal if we continue to fight each
other for table scraps.  Rather, we need to present the best case
for our future as a nation -- not our future as a high-energy
physicist, or a biosystematist, or an immunologist.  And we have to
do this in the most effective manner we can.  We need to capture
the nation's attention.  If we can do that, the facts will speak
for themselves...."

"For all the differences between the Administration and Congress,
there are many convictions we share.  For both, science is a most
powerful agent for change in our society.  In the end, that is why
we must continue to support research, even as we move to balance
the budget.  Science and technology will not only enable us to stop
digging deeper into the hole of deficit spending; they will enable
us to climb out of the hole we have dug."

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