on Science and Technology (PCAST)
Statement of Principles
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. Advanced technology products constitute the single most important positive component of America's trade balance. Science and technology are essential to enhancing and protecting the environment, through the development of technologies for pollution prevention, waste minimization, and cleanup. Fundamental research in biology and the emerging biotechnology industry are providing unprecedented understanding and treatment of human disease, as well as a safe, healthy and bountiful food supply. Our national security is based on technological superiority, including technologies resulting from fundamental research in electronics.
As we enter the information age, science and technology will play an
even greater role in both economic and social structures. The highly
competitive global marketplace will increasingly demand broadly based
scientific and technological strength for sustainable economic development and
improving the quality of life. The future challenges of post-Cold War
security, emerging diseases, and environmental stewardship in the face of
growing world population and increasing energy demand will require new science
and new technology.
Funds invested in research generate both the new knowledge and understanding and the outstanding scientists and engineers on which our future depends. 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. The is particularly so in these times of increasing global competition, which is shortening horizons for the returns derived from industrial research and development expenditures. This, Federal investment in science and in precompetitive technology research is critical to our 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. Federal research funding policies should reflect the historic partnership with universities which has served the nation so well.
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, and those individuals lacking such literacy will be unprepared to meet world standards. Although Federal spending is a very small fraction of the total national expenditure on K-12 education, the 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.
In addition to the needs for strong K-12 education, the school-to-work
transition and lifelong learning and retraining require increased
attention. Excellence in all of these will ensure that American industry
is able to sustain the workforce quality needed in a technology-based society,
and only then will American citizens be able to maintain the quality of life
potentially achievable in that society.
4. The federal government should continue to support strong research institutionsuniversities, research institutions, and national laboratoriesas 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.
The American research university is unquestionably the best in the world. It has successfully combined cutting-edge research and education, yielding an unmatched scientific and engineering workforce as well as the scientific breakthroughs in numerous critical technologies. This system has been built up by sustained and predictable research funding over an extended period of time. We cannot allow short-term pressures or fluctuations in funding to diminish this precious national resource. Universities must also continue to strive to improve the cost-effectiveness of the Federal research investment.
Federal agencies conduct a great deal of research and development at
in-house and contractor-operated laboratories. These laboratories
generally focus on missions associated directly with the parent agency.
However, some of these laboratories are a unique resource for tackling projects
of national importance. Examples of such projects include frontier
research that requires large multidisciplinary teams, operation of large
facilities for diverse user communities, and development and maintenance of
large data bases needed for forefront research. 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
5. The federal investment portfolio 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. In the United States, most basic research funding is provided by government agencies, with world leadership across scientific frontiers as the overarching goal. 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. In some
cases, the Federal government is itself the major customer for the resulting
technologies. More broadly, Federal support provides an essential bridge
between research results and product development, the latter being the focus of
industrial expenditure. 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. In the past,
investments in research shared by the public and private sectors have resulted
in significant commercial opportunities.
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 require a long lead time, so funding must be sustained and reliable to be cost-effective. Significant research projects generally have multi-year time scales, as do the training and career development of new engineers and scientists. Improved long-range planning of the science and technology investment is needed in order to help maintain funding stability.
International collaborations will become increasingly important for the advancement of large science projects. Stable, long-erm commitments are especially central to such collaborations. Commitments to international projects should be made only with strong bipartisan support and with multi-year Congressional authorization.
President's Committee of Advisors
on Science and Technology
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.
Washington, DC 20502
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore