Magazine article Issues in Science and Technology

Government's Role in Research Studied

Magazine article Issues in Science and Technology

Government's Role in Research Studied

Article excerpt

Most economists and science policy experts agree that the federal government's role in funding basic research is irreplaceable. However, as the R&D process has become more complex during the past half-century, the line between research that generates broad benefits and research that primarily benefits private industry has become blurred. At an April 22 hearing, the House Science Committee heard various views on the appropriate roles of government and industry in funding research, as well as appropriate mechanisms for transferring new knowledge to the private sector. The hearing was the sixth held as part of the House's National Science Policy Study, headed by Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers (R-Mich.), which is revisiting the landmark 1945 Vannevar Bush report that established the federal government as the primary source of funds for basic scientific research. The Ehlers study was expected to be submitted to the Science Committee by the end of June.

Claude E. Barfield of the American Enterprise Institute said he estimates that one-half to two-thirds of economic growth can be attributed to technology advances and that a solid basic research effort funded largely by the federal government underpins these advances. However, he pointed out that the federal government has limited resources and oversteps its role when it supports precompetitive commercial technology development, such as the Commerce Department's Advanced Technology Program. …

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