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Strategic Planning Document - Fundamental Science


CFS has a significant role in 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). Developing an interagency strategy for dealing with foundational issues that affect the broad research and development enterprise is a key component of CFS planning.

Issues currently being addressed in CFS plans include:

  • Assessment and evaluation
  • Costs of research and education
  • Merit review in fundamental science
  • International dimension
  • External guidance for fundamental science
  • Communicating science to the public.

Assessment and evaluation

Mechanisms for evaluating progress toward goals, evaluating effectiveness of agencies and the coordinated effort in fundamental science, assessing the state of fundamental science (as a whole and for particular subareas), delineating areas of particular opportunity for future emphasis, and describing gaps in the federal portfolio of support for fundamental science are all aspects of this area. CFS is working closely with OSTP, the agencies, and the scientific community to develop appropriate tools for assessment and evaluation.

Evaluating progress toward goals and the effectiveness of agency programs is connected with implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). This is related to Action 6 of Appendix 1. OSTP has undertaken a wide ranging effort to address the metrics of science to assist agencies in developing appropriate responses to GPRA.

  • CFS has charged the Subcommittee on Research to develop a process for addressing the metrics of science in conjunction with the OSTP effort. A white paper will be completed following an April policy colloquium.

Assessing the state of fundamental science, delineating areas of particular opportunity, and describing gaps in the federal portfolio of investments raises similar, but distinct issues, related to those of Action 2 in Appendix 1. Many public groups, most notably the National Research Council, have attempted to address these areas.

  • CFS will charge the Subcommittee on Research to work with the scientific community to develop appropriate tools for assessing the state of fundamental science. Criteria and mechanisms for assessment should be in place by the end of 1995.

Costs of research and education

Costs of carrying out the research and education activities supported by federal agencies vary significantly by who is performing the activities (federal laboratories, academic institutions, private industry, etc.). When the research and education activities are supported by federal funds through non-federal organizations, accounting for the costs and reimbursing them appropriately can become serious issues. Understanding the trends in costs of research and simplifying the complex set of mechanisms governing reimbursement of those costs are important to the plans of all agencies.

  • CFS has charged the Subcommittee on Research to review available information or new data necessary to formulate policy options for reimbursement of costs of research. They will also develop policy options for the payment of costs of research associated with the use of facilities in research and education. A preliminary report has been submitted to CFS. Based on this preliminary report and subsequent discussions, draft changes to OMB Circular A-21 were put forward simultaneously with the FY 1996 Budget. We expect the Subcommittee to be involved in subsequents phases of this activity.

  • One of the most complex issues in addressing costs of research and education is appropriate reimbursement for use of facilities. CFS has charged its Subcommittee on Research Infrastructure with keeping strong links with the Subcommittee on Research and taking the issues under discussion there into account in their deliberations on refurbishing academic research infrastructure. CFS has received a preliminary report, with the final report due in March, 1995.

Merit review in fundamental science

The use of merit review with peer evaluation in the selection and oversight of federally funded research and education programs is a high priority for CFS. Working with CFS agencies to develop mechanisms appropriate to the context of agency support for research and education is important to implementing this priority effectively.

  • OMB began collecting information on funding for merit reviewed research activities in 1994 through its Circular A-11, Exhibit 44A collection process. CFS helped craft the definition used.

  • CFS will charge its Subcommittee on Research to examine the use of merit review with peer evaluation in its member agencies and to provide suggestions on how CFS might move forward in this area.

International dimension

The nature of science is international, and the free flow of people, ideas, and data is essential to the health of our scientific enterprise. Fundamental science provides a particularly fertile ground for international collaboration. Developing protocols and priorities for international interaction in this venue, CFS can help create models for cooperation in other situations.

  • CFS will join with CISET to establish a joint subcommittee on international dimensions of fundamental science. An international forum for consideration of the role of fundamental science in government support of research and development is under discussion.

  • Actions 3 and 4 of Appendix 1 are also related to international issues.

External guidance for fundamental science

Another dimension of CFS work is to continue to engage the external community in discussions on science policies, principles and objectives. These discussions are important both for helping the external community understand the nature of the debate taking place at the national levels and for helping CFS members understand the perspective of those outside the federal government.

CFS began its efforts with the Forum on Science in the National Interest that led to the policy statement of the same name. CFS is committed to continuing the dialogue begun there and to exploring a variety of mechanisms for assuring that the public, including individuals from academic institutions and industry, have an opportunity to provide guidance as it refines its plans for the future. Many tools for gathering input are already in place. CFS will help to develop others. Examples include the following.

  • Several regional forums to follow up on issues raised in Science in the National Interest will take place in the spring of 1995. CFS members will participate in the university-organized forums.

  • Planning for a national forum on science literacy has begun to describe appropriate policies and national activities for implementing the fifth goal of Science in the National Interest.

  • CFS has chartered a Subcommittee on Communicating Science to the Public.

  • Existing agency advisory committees or Presidentially-appointed bodies will be called on for advice and guidance as appropriate to the issues under consideration. CFS plans a leadership exchange that will provide a basis for this activity in March, 1995, and expects to work closely with the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

  • CFS will work with the National Academies of Science and Engineering and the National Research Council as appropriate to the issues under consideration.

  • Scientific professional societies and organizations representing academic institutions and the private sector will play an important role in CFS efforts to obtain external advice.

Communicating Science to the Public

The Forum on Science in the National Interest also stressed the importance of an American public that is well-informed about science and technology. CFS will examine the role of federal research and development agencies in communicating science and technology to the public and to suggest mechanisms by which they might contribute to the broad public understanding and appreciation of science.

  • CFS has charged the Subcommittee on Communicating Science to the Public to provide analyses, advice, and recommendations on the role and responsibility of the federal government in the communication of scientific information and analyses to the public. The Subcommittee will also recommend ways agencies could work together to be more efficient and effective and could leverage existing resources to best coordinate and communicate their unique scientific information and analyses to the public.

  • Where appropriate, the Subcommittee will work with the NSTC Committee on Education and Training and its Joint Subcommitte with CFS on Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education. The Subcommittee will maintain close contact with the Joint SubcommitteeÕs working group on the public understanding of science so that their work is complementary and non-overlapping.

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Fundamental Science - Table of Contents

I. Executive Summary

II. Elements of the CFS Strategy

III. Current Federal Portfolio

IV. Implementation Plan

Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Appendix 3