Magazine article Science News

NSF: A Mouse That Roars Science Policy?

Magazine article Science News

NSF: A Mouse That Roars Science Policy?

Article excerpt

With only 3 percent of total federal research and development (R&D) dollars at its disposal, the National Science Foundation ranks as a minor player, financially, in the national R&D picture. But last week, an independent commission urged the National Science Board, which oversees NSF, to take the lead in promoting the development of a national science and technology policy. For years, federal officials have debated the need for an national technology policy but have not yet formulated one.

"We're calling for a stronger and more coherent policy, in which science and technology can contribute more strongly," says Robert W. Galvin, co-chair of the commission and an executive at Motorola, Inc., in Schaumburg, Ill. "The National Science Board should be facilitators of the dialogue to accomplish this goal."

Convened in August by the science board, the Special Commission on the Future of NSF also clarified NSF's role in promoting industrial competitiveness. "Technology is inescapably influenced the National Science Foundation does," says Galvin. "I do not see NSF trying to cure industry's problems." The report, "A Foundation for the 21st Century," blamed poor management practices by companies, not slow technology transfer, for the decline in U.S. competitiveness. It also noted that as defense industries become more consumer-oriented, they will rely even more on scientific advances.

For NSF to make the best of this transition, the commission suggests, it should involve more industry scientists on its advisory committees and staff, and it should seek more input from society in general when determining national research needs, allocating resources to research programs, and evaluating those programs. …

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