U.S. Science Policy in the Twenty-First Century
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: University of Michigan Press
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Over the last half century, many societal advances have been driven by progress in science and technology. Devastating diseases have been conquered, our quality of life and national security have been enhanced, and new economic and intellectual frontiers have been opened. Yet the public generally sees this progress as good fortune, not recognizing that it is largely the result of a sustained commitment...
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We want to extend our special thanks to the contributions of a number of individuals to this effort. They include David Abshire, Mariel Bailey, Jonathan Baugh, Audrey Benner, William Blanpied, Carol Blum, Jennifer Bond, Joanne Carney, Katharyn Cochrane, Dan Cohn, Dave Coverly, Benjamin Croner, Cinda Sue Davis, Tony DeCrappeo, Steve Dorman, Beth Demkowski, Jameson...
A Note on the Text
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The text is organized into four sections, of five chapters each. The first section gives the reader a general overview of what science policy is, how U.S. science policy originated, the processes and players involved in its formation, the rationale for U.S. science policy, and the means used by the government to evaluate the effectiveness of its scientific programs. Complementing this overview, the...
Section 1: Overview of U.S. Science Policy
1. Science Policy Defined
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On October 4, 1957, the Soviet launch of Sputnik I sent shock waves around the world—shock waves felt most strongly in the United States, where the news of the launch of the world’s first artificial satellite indicated that the country’s Cold War rival had beaten the United States into space. The result was widespread panic among the American people, a fear...
2. U.S. Science Policy before and after Sputnik
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The U.S. research enterprise, in which taxpayer dollars are appropriated for government-sponsored scientific research and awarded on the basis of scientific excellence, is envied around the world, and many countries are now trying to replicate it. Its tremendous success is due to an emphasis on basic research conducted and guided within a structure of interlocking relationships between government...
3. The Players in Science Policy
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The creation of federal policy has been compared to sausage making so often that it has become a clich�.� Perhaps nowhere, though, is this aphorism better illustrated than in the formation of science policy. Science policy-making is a messy process, engaging innumerable federal agencies and congressional committees, more than almost any other type of federal policy-making. While plurality...
4. The Process of Making Science Policy
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The process of making science policy can appear messy to the outsider. In truth, the process is quite similar to the creation of any kind of policy—it just requires more ingredients. Indeed, science policy is the product of multiple inputs, mechanisms, and interactions. Its pluralist nature and the involvement of many different executive agencies, congressional committees, and executive branch offices...
5. Federal Funding for Research: Rationale, Impact, and Trends
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Democratic governments seek to administer to the needs of their people, particularly in areas where centrally coordinated efforts are more effective than the initiatives of individual citizens. Whereas the choice of evening meals is best left to the individual family, national defense is most effectively managed by the government. Our question here is whether research should be a local concern, or one...
Section 2: Federal Partners in the Conduct of Science
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From antiquity, the most successful organized cultures have generally provided an environment in which individuals could congregate, advance and debate new ideas, and pass knowledge from one generation to the next. One of the best-known sites of such activity was the Academy created by Plato in Athens, in 387 BC.� Such early universities focused on the arts,...
7. Federal Laboratories
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In addition to supporting research at universities, the federal government supports a network of hundreds of intramural research facilities, centers, and laboratories. By one estimate, of a total of sixteen thousand public and private laboratories that compose the U.S. R&D system, seven hundred are owned by the federal government, approximately one hundred being of a size...
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Industries are the sustainable driving economic engines of most all advanced societies. The competitive environment in which they design, test, and manufacture products places a huge premium on efficiency and innovation. R&D is indispensable. It may not be surprising, therefore, that the majority of the nation’s research and development efforts are concentrated in industry.
9. The States
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The fifty American states are significant consumers of scientific and technical information, and the universities and businesses residing in each state greatly contribute to the creation of scientific and technical information. The role of the states in science policy and investment in R&D, however, has been overshadowed by the federal government and industry.�
10. The Public
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Astronomer Carl Sagan once wrote, “Everybody starts out as a scientist. Every child has the scientist’s sense of wonder and awe.”¹ Yet we as a nation have not always nurtured and sustained that sense of awe. The result is a culture in which even educated people sometimes brag about their inability to understand basic scientific principles.
Section 3: Science Policy Issues in the Post-Sputnik Era
11. Science for National Defense
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Concerns about national defense were the primary driving force behind American investment in research after World War II and throughout the Cold War. Noted President Harry Truman in a special message delivered to Congress in September 1945 just after the Japanese surrender in World War II: “No government adequately meets its responsibilities unless it generously...
12. Big Science
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A significant scientific contribution can result from work conducted by one investigator pursuing ideas on his or her own—the monk Gregor Mendel exploring heredity with his pea seedlings—or by huge numbers of scientists working together on large and complex research projects, as in the Hubble Telescope. Between the two extremes are small groups of researchers...
13. Scientific Infrastructure
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Infrastructure is an essential, but underappreciated, component of successful scientific research. The word infrastructure is sometimes used interchangeably with the word facilities, in the sense of brick-and-mortar buildings. However, infrastructure can also refer to wiring and communications systems, plumbing, even copiers; or it can mean the administrative...
14. Scientific Ethics and Integrity
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The term ethics, for our purposes, is taken to mean “the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group.”¹ Why are research ethics so important that the topic merits an entire chapter in a book on national science policy? As former National Academies leaders Bruce Alberts and Kenneth Shine point out, “The scientific research enterprise is built...
15. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education
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Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education encompasses the curriculum, instructional materials, and delivery approaches used to train students in these fields. It spans the distance from kindergarten classrooms through graduate and continuing education—a vast system commonly referred to as the “STEM pipeline.”
Section 4: Science Policy in an Era of Increased Globalization
16. The Science and Engineering Workforce
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A strong and vibrant S&E workforce is vital to America’s economic stability, as well as our quality of life, public health, and national security. Academia, industry, and the national labs are all critically dependent upon a workforce of able and interested professionals. Obviously, the federal government has a vested interest in ensuring the adequate supply of such professionals.¹
17. Globalization and Science Policy
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Modern science transcends geographical boundaries. This can only be to the good: the more widely knowledge is shared, the greater the potential for further advancement. At the same time, however, other nations’ technological advancements inevitably threaten America’s historical dominance in many primary scientific fields. As William Wulf aptly noted before...
18. Science and Homeland Security
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The attacks of September 11, 2001, ushered in a new era of homeland security. Whereas the attacks on Pearl Harbor targeted military personnel at a little-known base thousands of miles from the mainland, the September 11 assault targeted civilians in the nation’s capital and the world’s principal financial center. The strikes on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center set the...
19. Grand Challenges for Science and Society
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Many people—perhaps the majority of people in the world—believe that society will always face challenges that can only be addressed through scientific research. However, others believe with equal conviction that we already know all there is to know, and that future scientific research will offer diminishing returns. John Horgan, a writer for...
20. Science, Science Policy, and the Nation’s Future
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One can imagine how difficult it would have been for persons born in 1850 to imagine the world of today. Airplanes, x-rays, radios, the genome, the Internet, the atomic nucleus, even zippers and ice cream would all be entirely foreign. Even those with the most vivid imaginations would have been hard-pressed to foresee such novelties. In the words attributed to...
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Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 23 figs & 3 tables
Publication Year: 2008