For Better or for Worse: The Marriage of Science and Government in the United States

By Alfred K. Mann | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 8
The Future: 2000 and More

The science establishment that emerged in the United States during the past half century is a phenomenon in its own right: a unique partnership of government and private institutions, of administrators and scientists and engineers, brooded over by the Congress, which finances it, and pretty much allowed to go its own way under the benign neglect of the White House.

Much of the success of the enterprise, particularly in the early years, was due to the informal, personal way in which the federal science agencies conducted their business. The agencies were staffed by administrators who had had careers as scientists and who saw themselves as brokers between their scientific colleagues and the government. The peer review system in which other active scientists were asked for value judgments on proposed research also contributed to a family atmosphere in each of the agencies.

In the mid-1950s, for example, the AEC offered to finance construction by universities of several high-energy particle accelerators in addition to those it had sponsored soon after WWII. The idea was to encourage two or perhaps three universities in the same geographical region to collaborate on the construction and subsequent operation of an expensive experimental facility for faculty research and student training. Use of the facility would be

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