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Topic: FWD>Concerns about NSF
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Anne Wheelock

Posts: 41
Registered: 12/3/04
FWD>Concerns about NSF
Posted: Jan 20, 1996 10:57 PM
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>>(American Astronomical Society Meeting, Jan, 15, 1996)
>>"Although I would prefer to talk with you, today, in a lighthearted
>>and confident manner, I have come, in fact, with some serious concerns
>>about science, our national judgment, and America's future. The
>>government shutdown was senseless, wasteful, and many would say
>>irresponsible governance; hence my heavy heart and disgruntled spirit.
>>The phrase "non-essential employee," used to describe those who were
>>not required by law to be at work and were not allowed to work even
>>voluntarily--by law--and other intentionally demeaning terms, casually
>>and callously tossed about during the shutdown, were deeply offensive
>>to Federal workers.
>>"At NSF, we returned from the shutdown to the sight of over 20 large
>>mailroom carts crammed one against the other, brimming over with four
>>weeks of proposals and correspondence. The last report I had showed
>>over 2000 proposals in the queue (on the average, we receive and log
>>in about 240 proposals per day). On a single day last week, I know we
>>received over 900 proposals. So, I expect that the queue is up to
>>3000 by now...During the shutdown, many of our facilities, including
>>astronomical facilities, began to run out of money. We considered
>>truncating this season's Antarctic program. We will soon face a
>>decision about the next (winter) season since NSF funding runs out on
>>January 26.
>>"Many continuing grants ran out of funds, and there are likely to be
>>funding gaps for some renewals and substantial delays in funding new
>>awards. A large number of panels, site visits and other reviews, and
>>a meeting of the National Science Board had to be canceled or
>>postponed. Some new programs may be delayed by six months to a year or
>>canceled. And there are many other serious and urgent problems.
>>"...this year cannot be business as usual. The time period we have
>>lost is one that is critical to the smooth functioning of the proposal
>>review and award process. There is simply no way to avoid some
>>negative impact of a month's shutdown. We will do everything we can
>>to limit the impact, but we will not lower the review standards. We
>>will be asking for your patience and understanding as our program
>>officers attempt to get us back
>>"The entire sordid episode has, I believe, irreversibly changed the
>>image of public service, and I'm very worried about the implications
>>for NSF as well as other agencies. But, the shutdown reflects a much
>>larger set of conflicts and challenges.
>>"If this shutdown were an isolated occurrence, a loss of a month's
>>work, say due to a colossal blizzard or other act of nature, in an
>>otherwise healthy environment, for science, I would be less troubled.
>>Science in America is strong. The American system of higher education
>>is strong. NSF is strong, in part due to its efficiency,
>>effectiveness, and high standards of decision making through peer
>>review, and most importantly the support and active involvement of the
>>U.S. science community. But, we are not operating in a healthy
>>environment for science--research or education...
>>"The overall cuts in spending over the next seven years (1996-2002)
>>are designed to help balance the budget, at least through the year
>>2002. However, the specific reductions and cuts by which we reach that
>>goal can, in fact, spell trouble or triumph. My concern is that these
>>plans target major portions of the Federal R&D enterprise for
>>dismantlement, creating "thin ice" on which we attempt to skate toward
>>continued economic success.
>>"...we are now challenged to more clearly articulate the benefits of
>>federally funded research and education to a nation that is largely
>>uninformed about science and increasingly skeptical of federal funding
>>of all sorts. Now it is important that scientists move beyond their
>>intuitive understanding of the importance of their work and begin to
>>fold in anecdotal evidence from the past with the results of careful
>>assessments -- both existing and still to be done -- of the tangible
>>societal benefits of scientific research and education.
>>"Recently we have had strong validation of both our intuition and
>>data. The President's Council of Economic Advisors issued a report in
>>October entitled "Supporting Research and Development to Promote
>>Economic Growth." The economy is not the only benefit to be derived
>>from R&D, but it is an important one. The report stresses that every
>>federal dollar spent on R&D adds much more to the economy than simply
>>a dollar of R&D.
>>"The report goes on to state, (quote) "Investments in research and
>>development are the key to increasing productivity, accounting [in
>>recent history] for half or more of the growth in output per person."
>>(end quote) And it has long been accepted that improved worker
>>productivity is the key to the increased competitiveness of a
>>business, and of an industry, and of the general economic environment
>>within a state.
>>"Further recognition of the importance of productivity came from the
>>Economist Magazine which did a special survey on American business in
>>its mid-September, 1995 issue. The report states, (quote) "What
>>really matters is a country's ability to raise its own productivity.
>>That is the only way in which a country's industries can sell their
>>wares in international markets while raising their workers' wages."
>>(end quote) The article also quotes Stanford economist Paul Krugman
>>on this same issue. He says, (quote) "Productivity is not everything,
>>but in the long run it is almost everything." (end quote)
>>"And so here we have this tightly integrated cycle. R&D investments
>>in science and technology, for the most part, advance productivity
>>through improved processes and products. Highly trained technical
>>workers are required for the kinds of jobs that research and
>>development help create. This all comes together when you put skilled
>>workers into high-value jobs and promote economic growth. All well
>>and good if, among other things, the umbrella investment in federal
>>R&D is maintained at a healthy level and the workers get the education
>>they need. As Shakespeare would say, "aye, there's the rub."
>>"The federal investment in non-defense R&D is projected by the AAAS to
>>decrease by approximately 33 percent in real terms by 2002, and the
>>cuts in education are larger. In essence, this nation is getting
>>ready to run an experiment it has never done before--to see if we can
>>reduce the federal investment in R&D by one-third and still be a world
>>leader in the 21st century. Nobody knows the outcome. But it seems
>>pretty high risk...
>>"Mother Nature may have shut down Washington with a pair of blizzards,
>>but before that the entire nation suffered something of a "whiteout"
>>by the shutdown of the federal government on two occasions for a total
>>of four weeks. In this last go-around, several agencies or programs
>>that are politically visible and popular were pulled out of the usual
>>appropriations bills by the Congress and given targeted
>>appropriations, i.e., long-term C.R.s, through the end of the fiscal
>>year. NSF was not one of them; nor was NASA--we are in business only
>>through January 26...
>>"My message to you today is that if you don't take it as one of your
>>professional responsibilities to inform your fellow citizens about the
>>importance of the science and technology enterprise, then that public
>>support, critical to sustaining it, isn't going to be there. Who
>>knows more about science, its complex relationship with technology,
>>the linkage between research and education, the often unexpected
>>benefits to society, than you? Who has greater credibility in
>>discussing science, not just astronomy but science, than you? Who
>>understands better than anyone the price our nation will pay if we
>>fall behind in science and technology in the effort to downsize
>>government? Is it self-serving to advocate support for science?
>>Perhaps. But if the "self" is the American people and the position of
>>leadership of the U.S. in all fields of science and technology in the
>>21st century, then I wouldn't worry too much about appearing self
>>"One thing that has been striking during this year of budget battles
>>and, most recently, the shutdown, is the perceived stony silence of
>>the science and technology community--the universities, where most of
>>the fundamental research is done, and with a few exceptions, business
>>and industry, which depend on the knowledge and technologies research
>>provides. And I can assure you that this perceived lack of concern
>>has not gone unnoticed in Washington.
>>"Clearly, this is a time of great challenge for science and technology
>>in America. But, I believe we can seize this time as one of
>>opportunity to work together in ways we have never done before, to
>>raise our voices, together, to send out a clear and coherent message.
>>This is not the time to plead for biology vs. chemistry or astronomy
>>vs. engineering, or even basic vs. applied research or technology.
>>It's a time to speak out about the importance of the Federal
>>investment in science and technology, in research and education, in
>>universities, in national laboratories and other institutions--and in
>>the partnerships that have been formed with industry and other sectors
>>that use the knowledge and technologies for the public good.........."


Anne Wheelock
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

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