Strategic Planning Document - Fundamental Science
II. Elements of the CFS StrategyFrom atomic clocks for precision measurement in basic physics grew a global positioning system with applications to military and civilian navigation, emergency rescue, and tracking commercial vehicles. From intriguing questions about the magnetic resonance properties of individual atoms, chemists developed tools for analyzing the chemical structure of a material. That led, in combination with fundamental advances in electronics and mathematics, to such forefront medical diagnostic tools as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron-electron tomography (PET). These are but two examples of the consistently high return the federal investment in fundamental science yields for the American public.
The Federal government has an important role in providing support, facilities, and infrastructure for fundamental science. It is uniquely able to make the long-term investments that, by nature as well as by design, have high rates of return for society as a whole. There is a broad consensus that the bulk of fundamental research can best be supported by the public sector, which can stimulate and sustain a coordinated thrust to achieve societal benefits.
The federal investment in fundamental science serves two principal purposes: (1) developing a knowledge base that supports agency and national requirements for science and technology underpinning important areas of national policy, and (2) assuring a vital, regenerative pool of people, ideas, knowledge and tools to draw upon in addressing the scientific and technical challenges of the present and the future. The work and plans of the Committee on Fundamental Science (CFS) center on the second of these purposes, focusing on long-term investments that are efficient and effective in their use of current resources and in their connection with current challenges and opportunities.
Science in the National Interest, the recent Presidential statement of science policy, builds on a decade of public and private sector thinking about the role of science and technology to articulate a substantive set of challenging goals for the investment in fundamental science. It paints a persuasive picture of the value of fundamental science in addressing aspects of many pressing policy issues in areas such as health, prosperity, national security, environmental responsibility, and improved quality of life. It provides the rationale for a national effort to attain the following goals.
The current reassessment of the federal portfolio of research and development investments and the possibilities for more effective interaction among federal agencies provide an environment of opportunity for attaining these goals. CFS is adopting them as the goals of this plan.
In developing this plan, CFS recognizes its dual role: (1) addressing the substantive areas of fundamental science research (developing plans and approaches) and (2) addressing foundational issues for the entire research and development enterprise (education, infrastructure, and processes that influence the effectiveness and accountability of federal research and development). These two roles are overlapping and reinforcing. Each is important in the implementation plan that follows.
To reach the goals described above, CFS faces the following challenges:
CFS must embrace these challenges within the context of agency missions and broad administration priorities, and develop a federated structure to facilitate interagency cooperation.
The distinction between "basic" and "applied" science is commonly unclear and can vary depending on whether the views of performer or funder are being considered. In this Plan, CFS has used "fundamental science" as a combination of "basic" and "applied" science, with the inclusion of some portion of the cost of development of the tools and facilities used to perform that science. The details vary across the agencies, with the exact mix for each agency given in Appendix 3.
II.1 Agency decision-making and fundamental scienceCFS member agencies conduct fundamental science activities to support their statutorily mandated missions and responsibilities. These activities take many forms, including support for research efforts of university faculty and students, in-house laboratories, and construction and operation of large, complex facilities that are critical to the research of scientists and engineers from industry, government laboratories, and academia. Many of these activities contribute to achieving fundamental science goals such as those described above, but they may not be conducted explicitly for that purpose.
Planning for federal investments in fundamental science is carried out largely by individual agencies focused on their own missions and responsibilities. This is appropriate in most circumstances, but, where agencies do not have full information about the overall federal portfolio of investments, it may lead to less than optimal investment decisions government-wide.
To help establish a context in which agency decision-making can recognize and take advantage of the multiple purposes of fundamental science, CFS will
In addition to addressing agency missions and responsibilities, fundamental science activities are important to attaining the goals and objectives of many national science and technology initiatives. These initiatives are, in most instances, coordinated through other committees of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). This is also an important context for agency decision-making about fundamental science. CFS will
These efforts will permit agencies to make decisions with better knowledge about the impact of their choices. Decisions can then be based both on agency missions and priorities and on government-wide responsibilities for a national resource.
II.2 Issues in articulating and executing an interagency mission
The substance of an interagency mission for fundamental science, as stated in Science in the National Interest, has three principal components: support for fundamental science research, education and human resource development, and physical infrastructure. Each of these components has an impact well beyond fundamental science because together they provide a foundation for the entire research and development enterprise. Only by coordinating them in an interagency context for fundamental science can we assure appropriate federal attention to these foundational areas.
The first step in creating an interagency context for fundamental science is the development of plans that lay out frameworks for implementing Science in the National Interest.
For fundamental science research:
For education and human resources development:
For physical infrastructure:
CFS has begun development of these plans with strategies and timelines for action. Such plans require care and attention because of the breadth of their impact. Appendix 1 provides a summary table, with items keyed to the promised actions of Science in the National Interest. The first item, an articulated plan for strengthening the investment in fundamental science, is presented in more detail in the sections that follow.
II.3 Foundational issues across the research and development enterpriseDevelopment of policies that affect how science is done and evaluated is an important issue for CFS. They affect agencies' ability to implement the progrmmatic plans described above. Issues currently being addressed in CFS plans include:
These areas and CFS plans for addressing them are discussed in greater detail in Appendix 2.
II.4 Setting of priorites and allocation of resourcesSetting of priorities and resource allocation for research is of paramount importance when establishing national goals. Such priorities and allocations are established by the individual agencies, each of which have their special missions. Their goals, short- and long-term, are strongly influenced by the political process through both the agency leaders and the Congress, thereby providing abundant opportunity for input by non-scientists as well as scientists. CFS will review the priorities and resource allocation decisions within an interagency context.
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