PCAST Drafts Principles for Federal Support of Science and

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Publication date: 
6 October 1995


Along with a letter to President Clinton and congressional leaders,
as reported in FYI #141, the President's Committee of Advisors on
Science and Technology produced a Statement of Principles for
guiding federal science and technology policy and future budgets.
The six principles, along with selected portions of the Committee's
justifications, are quoted below:

1.  Science and technology have been major determinants of the
American quality of life and will be of even greater importance in
the years ahead.

"Over the last 50 years, our economic productivity, environmental
quality, personal health, and national security have become firmly
grounded on our scientific and technological strength.  More than
half of our growth in economic productivity and per capita income
has resulted from technological advances....  As we enter the
information age, science and technology will play an even greater
role in both economic and social structures...."

2.  Public support of science and technology should be considered
as an investment for the future.

"...The marketplace alone cannot fund basic and applied research in
science and technology at a sufficient level because the benefits
are generally too far in the future and too widely distributed for
individual companies to justify the investment...[particularly] in
these times of increasing global competition, which is shortening
horizons for the returns derived from industrial research and
development expenditures."

3.  Education and training in science, mathematics, and engineering
are crucial to America's future.

"America's world renowned research universities have been a driving
force behind our nation's primacy in science and technology, but
they are currently under institutional stress....  In contrast to
the world leadership in advanced education, our K-12 education,
especially in science and mathematics, needs significant
improvement.  The knowledge-based society of the 21st century will
place a high premium on scientific and technical literacy.... 
[T]he Federal government should play a role in establishing
educational standards, in encouraging young people from diverse
backgrounds to choose careers in science and technology (including
the teaching of science and technology), in providing disadvantaged
students with the opportunity for full participation in society,
and in developing and offering cutting edge instructional tools."

4.  The Federal government should continue to support strong
research institutions -- universities, research institutions, and
national laboratories -- as part of the nation's science and
technology infrastructure.

"Federal investment develops the science and technology
infrastructure needed to meet future national needs.  Frontier
research and educational excellence require world-class research
institutions, facilities, and instrumentation....  We cannot allow
short-term pressures or fluctuations in funding to diminish this
precious national resource."

"Federal agencies conduct a great deal of research and development
at in-house and contractor-operated laboratories....  Government
laboratories will be subject to ongoing streamlining and mission
redefinition, but must be viewed as an essential component of our
national science and technology infrastructure, complementing the
capabilities of universities and industrial laboratories."

5.  The Federal investment portfolio in science and technology must
support both basic and applied research, including the development
of precompetitive technologies with and for the private sector as
well as for national needs.

"The need for Federal support of basic research is widely
recognized.  It is the research that ultimately underlies and
stimulates technological innovation....  The benefits of basic
research are generally too long term, too widely distributed, and
too high risk for individual companies to justify the costs.
Recently, even the premier corporations that have historically
funded basic research are now cutting back."

"Applied research and development are largely supported in the
private sector.  However, Federal support plays a crucial role....
Federal support provides an essential bridge between research
results and product development....  Without Federal support for
generic applied research and development, often in cost-sharing
arrangements with the private sector, our industries will be at a
significant competitive disadvantage and our nation's economic
strength will be diminished...."

6.  Stability of funding, based on long-range planning, is
essential for effective and efficient use of the Federal investment
in research and its associated educational function and for
enhancing international collaboration.

"Building outstanding research and development capacity requires a
long lead time, so funding must be sustained and reliable to be

"International collaborations will become increasingly important
for the advancement of large science projects.  Stable, long-term
commitments are especially central to such collaborations.
Commitments to international projects should be made only with
strong bipartisan support and with multi-year Congressional

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