Science Policy from Ford to Reagan: Change and Continuity

Science Policy from Ford to Reagan: Change and Continuity

Science Policy from Ford to Reagan: Change and Continuity

Science Policy from Ford to Reagan: Change and Continuity

Excerpt

The United States is recognized as a leader in scientific and technological progress. One of the major reasons for this achievement has been the wide support, both public and private, of research and development activities. Claude E. Barfield, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, examines the research and development strategies of the Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations. The author studies the policies of the three administrations by describing and analyzing both change and continuity in the principles and actual operations of the federal science support system.

Dr. Barfield's final chapter consists of a comprehensive summary and a group of policy recommendations. His proposals are thoughtful and feasible because they attempt to anticipate emerging issues and problems for government-sponsored research and development. His suggestions build upon areas of consensus that have evolved during the past three administrations and are tailored to fit the tight fiscal conditions that are likely to remain for the foreseeable future.

The broadest recommendation the author makes is that the primary concern of the White House and Congress should be directed toward the long-term, basic research elements in the research and development budget. This proposal follows from the fact that the private sector will not support this research at an adequate level for several reasons: because the private reward accruing to firms tends to be a small portion of the return received by society as a whole; because of the risk and uncertainty associated with such research; and because, in most cases, there is the need for sizable, long-term investment. It is appropriate for the federal government to act to ensure an adequate level of spending for research to advance general scientific knowledge.

Dr. Barfield admits that there are no exact criteria for establishing the adequacy of the federal basic research budget. Government support must, then, be determined using relatively arbitrary rules. He adds that funding decisions should have a basis in the experience of past programs and should uphold the conviction that scientific prog-

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