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the determination of priorities, budgeting, and the development
of new programs.
One aspect of the process is identification by
the Board and staff of longer term concerns which may affect many fields of science. Background information on these issues and on the anticipated future environment is prepared by NSF staff. At the June planning environment review, held under the aegis of the Planning and Policy Committee, the Board discusses such topics, formulates recommendations, and considers possible actions.
The topics considered by the Board last year included the support of young investigators and young faculty. Several possible programs were described, and the positive and negative aspects of each were discussed. The Committee on Role of NSF in Basic Research, chaired by Dr. Alexander Rich, who is present today, was asked to examine further these possible programs; it will provide recommendations to the Board some time in the near future.
A second topic explored in June 1979--reevaluation of NSF research funding mechanisms--has led to further study of new methods of financing research equipment and mechanisms for making small grants to scientists primarily at four-year colleges. The Ad Hoc Committee on Big and Little Science will bring recommendations on these items to the Board.
Another component of the Board's planning activities is the examination of the scientific and program priorities of the Foundation's long-range plans. Guidance is provided through the Committee on Budget, in the preparation of the multi-year cost estimates.
As the Foundation's input to the President's proposed budget develops, the Board keeps in close touch with events.
Status of Science Reviews--1980 provides background for the Board in its planning and budgeting activities and may also be of interest to the Congress and others considering the future of the scientific enterprise. Developed by the Board and Foundation staff, these reviews are an annual series of reports summarizing the judgments of the individual NSF program directors about the current directions and opportunities in the fields of science supported through each directorate. Continuing attention is given
to describing the role of the Foundation vis-a-vis other sources of support for research and science education in the Nation.
Oversight of the activities of the Foundation is a major NSB responsibility.
It is carried out by individual Members' activities, through the Programs Committee, and through the Committee on Audit and Oversight. Within the past year the latter Committee has noted that it is becoming of increasing importance to examine completed projects to determine if the results are consistent with the objectives of the programs under which the awards are funded. Experimentation with measures and mechanisms to determine the nature and quality of work accomplished with NSF support is also underway within the Foundation.
Other means by which the Board discharges its oversight responsibilities include receipt of program reviews at NSB meetings, participation by the Members in site visits to the National
Centers and other NSF-supported facilities and activities, and attending and reporting upon meetings of the NSF Advisory Council and other Foundation advisory committees.
The National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended, requires that the Board assess the status and health of science and its various disciplines, including such matters as national resources and manpower, in reports rendered annually to the President for submission to the Congress. The first report, Toward a Public Policy for Graduate Education in the Sciences, was published in 1969. The Eleventh NSB Report, Science Indicators--1978, was transmitted by the President to the Congress on November 19, 1979.
From this latest report some conclusions can be drawn about the current state of science and technology in this country. Certainly there are some areas that must be watched carefully, but, overall, our scientific enterprise remains sturdy. Some highlights of the report are listed below.
The U. S. investment in research and development (R&D) is much greater than in most countries, both in terms of expenditure and in scientific and technical personnel. Germany have been increasing their R&D investments more rapidly than has the United States.
However, Japan and West
U. S. universities and colleges have made a significant contribution to the building of world scientific and technical capabilities. They have contributed to the development of foreign
universities and have also assumed the role of training many foreign scientists and engineers.
Other nations are advancing in terms of economic growth and technical prowess. From the viewpoint of global development and that of our own Nation, this is a positive sign.
National R&D spending levels have begun to advance following
a long period of reduced support.
Basic and applied research expenditures, in real dollars, have been rising since 1976. Basic research is supported primarily by Federal sources; the Government has taken the position that "prudent planning for the future demands a deliberate and continued commitment to basic research."*
Total national expenditures for basic research have grown during the period from 1976 to 1979 in constant dollar terms following a period of reduced spending between the late 1960's and mid1970's.
Applied research, supported substantially by industrial and Federal sources, also increased because of strong Federal interest and improved fiscal conditions in the private sector.
The most dramatic change in Federal R&D spending has been in energy, which grew at an average annual rate of 33.6 percent between 1974 and 1979.
*Presidential Message on Science and Technology, delivered to the Congress, March 27, 1979.
- Universities and colleges now perform the largest percentage of basic research in the United States. In 1960 this sector spent
36 percent of the Nation's expenditures for basic research; by
1978 it had risen to 52 percent.
A relatively recent, modest growth in spending for basic research in industry is significant because it may signal the end of the longstanding trend of decreased industrial basic research activity.
Concerns have been expressed recently about a decline in the quality of the science and engineering work force. There are no direct measures of work force quality, but two measures suggest that it has not decreased: experienced scientists and engineers continue an undiminished participation in training programs; and test scores for prospective graduate students on both the verbal and quantitative components of the Graduate Record Examination remain high and unchanged, both absolutely and relative to nonscience fields.
During the decade of the 1980's, more of this country's citizenry must and will become more scientifically literate. Thus, society, both as a whole and as individual citizens, will have more of an understanding of science; it should and will expect much of science and technology, especially when supported by public funds. Individual scientists or engineers expect that their "bit" of science, in combination with some other bits and frequently in quite unexpected ways, will through technology