Strategic Planning Document - Fundamental Science


CFS has a significant role in addressing foundational issues for the entire research and development enterprise (education, infrastructure, and processes that influence the effectiveness and accountability of federal research and development). Developing an interagency strategy for dealing with foundational issues that affect the broad research and development enterprise is a key component of CFS planning.

Issues currently being addressed in CFS plans include:

Assessment and evaluation

Mechanisms for evaluating progress toward goals, evaluating effectiveness of agencies and the coordinated effort in fundamental science, assessing the state of fundamental science (as a whole and for particular subareas), delineating areas of particular opportunity for future emphasis, and describing gaps in the federal portfolio of support for fundamental science are all aspects of this area. CFS is working closely with OSTP, the agencies, and the scientific community to develop appropriate tools for assessment and evaluation.

Evaluating progress toward goals and the effectiveness of agency programs is connected with implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). This is related to Action 6 of Appendix 1. OSTP has undertaken a wide ranging effort to address the metrics of science to assist agencies in developing appropriate responses to GPRA.

Assessing the state of fundamental science, delineating areas of particular opportunity, and describing gaps in the federal portfolio of investments raises similar, but distinct issues, related to those of Action 2 in Appendix 1. Many public groups, most notably the National Research Council, have attempted to address these areas.

Costs of research and education

Costs of carrying out the research and education activities supported by federal agencies vary significantly by who is performing the activities (federal laboratories, academic institutions, private industry, etc.). When the research and education activities are supported by federal funds through non-federal organizations, accounting for the costs and reimbursing them appropriately can become serious issues. Understanding the trends in costs of research and simplifying the complex set of mechanisms governing reimbursement of those costs are important to the plans of all agencies.

Merit review in fundamental science

The use of merit review with peer evaluation in the selection and oversight of federally funded research and education programs is a high priority for CFS. Working with CFS agencies to develop mechanisms appropriate to the context of agency support for research and education is important to implementing this priority effectively.

International dimension

The nature of science is international, and the free flow of people, ideas, and data is essential to the health of our scientific enterprise. Fundamental science provides a particularly fertile ground for international collaboration. Developing protocols and priorities for international interaction in this venue, CFS can help create models for cooperation in other situations.

External guidance for fundamental science

Another dimension of CFS work is to continue to engage the external community in discussions on science policies, principles and objectives. These discussions are important both for helping the external community understand the nature of the debate taking place at the national levels and for helping CFS members understand the perspective of those outside the federal government.

CFS began its efforts with the Forum on Science in the National Interest that led to the policy statement of the same name. CFS is committed to continuing the dialogue begun there and to exploring a variety of mechanisms for assuring that the public, including individuals from academic institutions and industry, have an opportunity to provide guidance as it refines its plans for the future. Many tools for gathering input are already in place. CFS will help to develop others. Examples include the following.

Communicating Science to the Public

The Forum on Science in the National Interest also stressed the importance of an American public that is well-informed about science and technology. CFS will examine the role of federal research and development agencies in communicating science and technology to the public and to suggest mechanisms by which they might contribute to the broad public understanding and appreciation of science.