The University Record, March 12, 1996

THE FUTURE OF GOVERNMENT/UNIVERSITY RESEARCH PARTNERSHIPS

Jerome B. Wiesner Symposium brings government, industry, universities together

University administrators, industry leaders and government officials met on the U-M campus Feb. 26 to begin charting the future of university science and technology research and higher education in a time of shrinking budgets and lack of public supp ort for science.

The goal, according to Homer A. Neal, vice president for research, was to "discuss where we are, where we are going, and what our next course should be." The occasion was the first annual Jerome B. Wiesner Symposium on National Science Policy.

The unprecedented gathering brought together for the first time presidential science advisers from the Johnson through the Clinton administrations, scientists and administrators from all the Big 10 universities, legislative leaders, and representa tives from federal funding agencies like the National Science Foundation.

"We wanted to bring all the parties and sectors together, in the hope of developing a broad, mutual understanding of the principles that ought to guide both universities and the government as they plan for the future," Neal said.

The symposium was named in honor of Jerome B. Wiesner, one of the U-M's most distinguished alumni, who was president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1971 until 1980, and served as science and technology adviser to Presidents Jo hn F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Co-sponsored by all the Big Ten Universities, the symposium was designed to bring leaders from government, industry and academe together for a wide-ranging, candid discussion of the complex global issues shaping the future of the federal governmen t/university partnership.

"Some of these issues have been sharply posed," Neal said. "Should there be a partnership at all? Should universities be more active or less active in technology transfer activities? Should research universities be more attentive to undergraduate education, perhaps at the expense of their research programs? Should we more aggressively pursue applied research, or leave that area for ultimate resolution by industry and government laboratories? The answers to these questions are n ot trivial and may be at the heart of the prosperity and welfare of our nation in the decades to come."

"The symposium was part of an ongoing process, so follow-up efforts to sustain the dialogue are extremely important," Neal said. "Information on the symposium will be broadly distributed with the assistance of national organization s such as the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges and the Science Coalition."

The symposium was organized around a draft set of "principles for the future of the government/university partnership." The work-in-progress document was developed over the past year on the basis of numerous discussions with a variety of individuals, including many who participated in the symposium. All symposium participants received the draft of the principles as background material. The principles will be revised based on the symposium discussion, and the revised version will be bro adly distributed.

Discussion of additional steps that the co-sponsoring Big Ten universities might take collectively to follow up on the symposium began in a brief, informal meeting immediately following the closing session and will continue in future meetings.

 

KEYNOTE ADDRESS: "Not What We Think: What We Haven't Thought Of"

Charles M. Vest, former U-M provost and current president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, urged the 100 participants in the Jerome B. Weisner Symposium to pay close attention to what industry and society say they need and want from scien tific research and higher education.

"If we expect the federal government and the American people to support us, we must pay more attention to the things that concern them," Vest said. "Send the money and leave us alone is no longer an acceptable message. We need to change, and look to the future, not the past. We must be willing to explain what we do and why we do it, be cause our role today is neither understood nor appreciated."

He urged the scientists and administrators in the audience to "be your own constituency" by advocating for science on newspaper opinion/editorial pages, in television and radio interviews, and through lectures for the general public.

By 1997, the federal government's investment in research and development is expected to drop to 2.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) with only one-quarter of this amount devoted to non-defense-related research in science or engineering, acc ording to Vest. In contrast, Japan currently invests 2.8 percent of its GDP in non-defense R&D and plans to double that investment by the year 2000.

Reductions in federal funding are compounded by cutbacks in private research laboratories the place where industry and academic researchers historically shared a technology base and exchanged ideas as they worked together on mid-range, two- to fiv e-year research projects that bridged the technology transfer gap between scientific discoveries on campus and new products in the marketplace.

Vest discussed several misconceptions he believes are contributing to the public's loss of faith in science and cut backs in federal funding support.

 

Politicians who insist on categorizing research and development as either basic or applied, he said, oversimply the reality that these two types of research really are quite integrated.

 

Policy-makers and the public no longer see research and higher education as an investment paying high rates of return to private industry and society, according to Vest.

 

Finally, Vest cited the "short-sided and dangerous" idea that education and research are separate and mutually exclusive.

"Our value to the national economy stems from our willingness to explore the unknown, unravel mysteries and satisfy human curiosity," Vest said. "We cannot deprive the next generation of the opportunity to contribute to this proces s."

 

Panel Discussion:"Inputs: Responsible Allocation and Stewardship of Resources"

 

 

Tension exists between the goals of science (progress) and the goal of government (effective process). This tension can be creative, if it is properly balanced. David Skorton

 

Research priorities based on national needs should be established by a partnership of academic, industry and government representatives. Two questions should be addressed in determining the research agenda: "Is it needed?" "Doe s it have citizen trust?" David Skorton

 

Much of the public's concern about scientific research is related to ethical considerations and integrity. These issues are legitimate and must be addressed. David Skorton

A federal science and technology budget should be created that focuses on the discovery of new knowledge, rather than development of current knowledge, with no distinction between basic and applied research. Congress would be presented with a si ngle prioritized budget request, rather than several from multiple sources. ( David H. Auston, presenting a summary of the recent NAS report on allocation of federal resources.) Other speakers disagreed with this proposal, suggesting that it would reduce the government's flexibility to reallocate funds within the larger R& D budget. D. Allan Bromley and various speakers

 

There is a new dynamic in Congress, created not so much by a shift in party control as by a shift from old guard to new guard. 60 percent of the House Science Committee has been in office three years or less. Increasing congressional underst anding of science must be addressed through a long-term relationship---years, not months---based on common goals. We need a program through which the scientific community can convince legislators of the importance of federal investment in science. R. Thomas Weimer

 

Government must meet its obligation to support research and play a constructive role in fostering new partnerships with industry. John N. Yochelson

 

In a time of constrained resources, universities and national labs must work together and not commit "fratricide" in competition for limited resources. John N. Yochelson

 

A national dialogue between key players on all sides should be initiated at the federal level to establish a consensus on the government's role and responsibility toward research and development. Various speakers

 

Participants: David H. Auston, provost, Rice University, and member, NAS Committee on Criteria for Federal Support of Research and Development; David Skorton, vice president for research, University of Iowa; R. Thomas Weimer, staff director, Scien ce Subcommittee on Basic Research, U.S. House of Representatives; John N. Yochelson, president, Council on Competitiveness.

 

Panel Discussion: "Outputs: Research and Education for the 21st Century"

 

The university's most important role is to acquire and pursue new knowledge and transmit it to students and the public. The future of scientific research and higher education depends on engaging students and the public in science as a "mo de of inquiry," rather than as a body of received knowledge. Vernon J. Ehlers

 

There is no "money tree" in Washington anymore. Scientists must develop new research funding sources at the state and international level and in collaboration with industry. However, it will be difficult to completely replace federa l cuts with funding from other sources. Various speakers

 

Universities must be active partners with industry especially small to medium-sized companies that are most likely to market new technologies and create new jobs. Universities must listen to industry and produce students with the diverse skill s needed for today's jobs. Kumar N. Patel and other speakers

 

The most successful universities will recognize that research and education are not in conflict and find ways to communicate that message. If the public believes that federal support for research detracts from education, we all lose. Anne C. Petersen and other speakers

 

The government must prioritize its budgets much as a family must do when faced with financial constraints. In this process, the nation's "intellectual currency" must remain a priority. Lynn N. Rivers

 

The United States must continue to produce world-class scientists and engineers. The ability to maintain domestic production of important new technologies, such as flat panel displays, is vital to our national security. Various speakers

 

 

Science has a "great story to tell" and must do a better job of telling it. There are other sectors of society prepared to ally with science if we begin to work with them. Robert Galvin

 

Participants: Vernon J. Ehlers, U.S. House of Representatives (Michigan-3rd District); Robert Galvin, chairman of the executive committee, Motorola, Inc.; Kumar N. Patel, vice-president, University of California at Los Angeles; Anne C. Petersen, de puty director, National Science Foundation; Lynn N. Rivers, U.S. House of Representatives (Michigan-13th District).

Panel Discussion: "The Research University in National Science and Technology Policy"

 

Instead of debating the role of the federal government, we should be debating national policy goals for research and development. Once national goals are agreed upon, we can determine how best to focus government and university efforts to achi eve our common goals. John P. McTague

 

It is important to remain positive and keep the current situation in perspective. H. Guyford Stever

 

During the 1970s, universities faced similar issues related to cuts in federal research funding and lack of public support for science. Funding cuts will compel qualitative changes in our research and education system. We must be attentive to all aspects of this system as we move forward. Donald F. Hornig

 

During previous administrations, Congress and federal agencies had many members who were experienced and knowledgable about science. Now there are many newcomers in Washington and it is important to build bridges and raise their level of aware ness. H. Guyford Stever, D. Allan Bromley

 

Universities hold the key to the country's future, but they must be responsive to society's needs, if an investment strategy for research is to be justified. Universities must improve undergraduate teaching in science, mathematics and technolo gy and they must keep costs down to ensure access to all qualified students. Access to higher education is a vital issue in our socially dynamic society. Ernest J. Moniz and other speakers

 

The federal government does not reimburse universities for the total cost of federally sponsored research conducted on campus. Federal regulations and paperwork are driving up the cost of both research and education. D. Allan Bromley and other speakers

 

University researchers must develop and foster a vision of an optimistic future and communicate that vision to the public through active outreach to community organizations and the public schools. Various speakers

 

Participants: D. Allan Bromley, science and technology adviser to President George Bush; Donald F. Hornig, science and technology adviser to President Lyndon Johnson; John P. McTague, vice-president, Ford Motor Company and acting science adviser to Pr esident Ronald Reagan; Ernest J. Moniz, associate director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President; H. Guyford Stever, science and technology adviser to President Richard Nixon and President Gerald Ford.

 

Closing Session

 

 

With the end of the Cold War, we have entered a new era in the relationship between the federal government and scientific research. We must educate the public about science and educate scientists about public concerns, so all can speak to a c ommon interest.

 

Serious efforts must be made to improve communication within and among a large variety of constituencies and stakeholders with respect to science. We must learn the language of politics, which is not the language we use with our colleagues.

 

Scientists should lobby for statements in both the Republican and Democratic party platforms that recognize the contributions of science and its importance to society.

 

The next generation of scientists must be included in future programs. They are acutely aware of the problems and care deeply about inquiry and discovery. They need to be assured and nurtured.

 

This is an age of quick transitions during which most growth comes from new knowledge. Research universities are the engines driving our economy.

 

Participants: Edward F. Hayes, vice president for research, Ohio State University; Cornelius J. Pings, president, Association of American Universities.

The Jerome B. Wiesner Symposium

Sponsored by:
Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Michigan

 

Co-sponsored by
University of Illinois, Chicago; University of Illinois, Urbana; Indiana University; University of Iowa; Michigan State University; University of Minnesota; Northwestern University; The Ohio State University; Pennsylvania State University; Purdue Univ ersity; University of Wisconsin, Madison