Setting Our National Goals

This Administration stated in February 1993 its over-arching goal for fundamental research-- world leadership in basic science, mathematics and engineering. To sustain the leadership position we now hold, we must improve the conditions, capabilities, and opportunities for well-trained scientists and engineers to pursue innovative research, to educate the next generation, and to apply science in areas of importance to the health, prosperity, and security of the country. The agenda is a broad one, and will require the resources of government and the creative participation of industry and academia. Therefore, we set the following goals for our stewardship of science in the national interest:

While we pursue these goals amidst rapid change, we must not lose sight of the core values that have enabled our nation to achieve so much. Over the last fifty years, the United States developed a unique and highly successful system for advancing scientific research in universities, medical schools, and independent research centers and in Federal and industrial laboratories. Our system rests on a strong commitment to investigator-initiated research and merit review based on evaluation by scientific peers. This system maintains the emphasis on excellence and brings new people and new ideas into the research enterprise.

A significant fraction of research, particularly fundamental research, is performed at academic institutions. This has multiple benefits. Research and education are linked in an extremely productive way. The intellectual freedom afforded academic researchers and the constant renewal brought by successive generations of inquisitive young minds stimulate the research enterprise. A broad range of disciplines are represented in our research universities, providing opportunity for cross disciplinary stimulation.

Federal support of fundamental science and engineering is characterized by a healthy pluralism. All Federal departments and agencies that depend heavily on scientific and technical knowledge and human resources support fundamental research and education in these areas. This improves their capacity to attain their evolving goals as new challenges emerge.

Several illustrations in this and following sections demonstrate how science has improved and enriched our lives, often in ways that could not be predicted. This broad advance of science and its applications represented in the illustrations originated in the support of science by a multiplicity of federal agencies.

The nature of science is international, and the free flow of people, ideas, and data is essential to the health of our scientific enterprise. Many of the scientific challenges, for example in health, environment, and food, are global in scope and require on-site cooperation in many other countries. In addition to scientific benefits, collaborative scientific and engineering projects bring nations together thereby contributing to international understanding, good will, and sound decision-making worldwide.

Finally, we must emphasize that science advances the national interest and improves our quality of life only as part of a larger enterprise. Today's science and technology enterprise is more like an ecosystem than a production line. Fundamental science and technological advances are interdependent, and the steps from fundamental science to the marketplace or to the clinic require healthy institutions and entrepreneurial spirit across society. Many of these institutions need attention. Nevertheless, we cannot afford to lose sight of the importance of scientific research and education for sustained progress in the modern world.