THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of Science and Technology Policy
For Immediate Release April 29, 1998 Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones Acting Director, Office of Science & Technology Policy Keynote Address to the Twenty-Third Annual AAAS Colloquium on S&T Policy April 29, 1998
Thank you for that kind introduction. It is truly a pleasure for me to be here today, speaking to the organization that gave me my start in public policy nearly thirteen years ago.
As I thought about my remarks this morning, I tried to think of an appropriate way to describe this particular point in time. I wanted to view this time from two distinct vantage points—the science and technology view, as well as the public policy view. What is happening from both perspectives and how do we move forward from where we are?
Changing Our Thinking
Thomas Kuhn observed in his essay on the Structure of Scientific Revolutions that during changes in scientific thinking, time-honored, accepted ways of conceiving the world seem to suddenly give way to others. When this happens, the world no longer looks the same.
Aristotle's analysis of motion, Ptolemy's computations of planetary position, or Newton's view of the universe, served for many generations to define the accepted understanding of the world. But with experimentation and exploration these time-honored beliefs gave way to new laws, new theories and new ways in which we perceived our world.
In this century, we have seen so many different advances in science and these in turn have, in so many instances, changed how we conceive of our world. Our concepts of who we are, where we are and the tools available to improve or destroy ourselves have changed dramatically. We split the atom and realized the prospect of an unlimited source of energy, but also the horror of unimaginable annihilation. We uncovered the fundamental structure of DNA and with it, revealed the blueprint for growth, change and development of living things. We peered deep into the heavens and observed that our home planet Earth spins in the midst of a rapidly expanding universe; and we have harnessed space and electromagnetism to communicate audio-visual, textual, and numerical information around the globe.
In our time, it is not only what we are learning, but how quickly knowledge is expanding. And the rate of discovery continues at an extraordinary pace. During the past year, the headlines of scientific and technological change have been staggering:
- We have been able to isolate genes involved in biological clocks of several organisms, from fruit flies to mammals; and we have seen an explosion of genomics, including analysis of whole genomes of several microbes, plants and animals.
- We witnessed on-line around the world the successful mission of the Mars Pathfinder. This was our first return to the red planet in over 20 years, collecting a wealth of information about the terrain and chemical composition of our closest neighbor.
- We have seen a liquid ocean beneath Europa's icy surface. Detailed views by NASA's Galileo spacecraft strongly suggest the possibility of liquid water—key to the chance that living organisms might be found there.
If for each of these discoveries, we were able to freeze time and take a snapshot of the state of affairs, we might assemble a gallery of photographs that I would entitle "the edge of change." Key scientific discoveries throughout history have encompassed a particular flash of understanding--that insightful moment when Archimedes was in his bathtub, for example, and realized that he was displacing water equivalent to his body's volume. The precise moment when the reality of the world dawned on Archimedes is what I call the "edge of change."
- We were able to capitalize on a decade of research and investment in modeling and monitoring technologies to produce the first accurate forecast of the El Nino phenomenon. This was the first accurate prediction of the onset of a large-scale climate event.
Changes in the Budget Process
I believe that we are on that same edge of change in our federal political and budget process. Historically, decision-makers have focused discretionary budgetary discussions on four or five key areas including: education, defense, crime and health care. Today, I believe we are seeing the emergence of a new player at the table—Science and Technology. For those of us close to science and technology and its policy issues, the fact that S&T belongs at the table is not a new or shocking discovery. We have understood the details of the S&T policy role from our own disciplines and fields—it has been intuitive. Yet our intuition has not been widely shared with policymakers and voters. However, the growing understanding that science and technology underpin our well-being and security—the widening role of science and technology in public policy, and the expanding audience who are now turning to science and technology to address the challenges of the day, represent a whole new wave of discovery… and we must seize this moment.
Science and technology can no longer be viewed solely as a special interest represented by sometimes competing disciplines, researchers and institutions. The impact of the sum of the advances made possible by science and technology on our world is overwhelming:
- The sum of progress in science and technology on the individual lives of American citizens underpins their health, well-being, and quality of life;
- The sum of progress on our national economy from new businesses (like biotech and infotech) is driving real growth and job creation;
In the first days of their Administration, President Clinton and Vice President Gore recognized the overwhelming and fundamental nature of science and technology to our nation's prosperity and security; they recognized that we stood on the edge of change. The Administration fought to protect the nation's investment in science and technology through the difficult days of tough budget-balancing decisions. In addition to the balanced budget constraints, we also faced a period, not very long ago, where discussions on the Federal S&T budget were marked by rancorous partisan debate. Now, support for investing in science and technology enjoys support from both sides of the aisle, all points on the political compass, and from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
- And the sum of progress in science and technology on foreign policy and security, from understanding biological weapons to digitizing the battlefield is redefining security.
The President's leadership and commitment has paid off. He has submitted to Congress a balanced budget—three years ahead of schedule. It is the first time in 30 years a budget has been submitted to Congress that is in balance and contains the largest civilian R&D dollar request ever. The Administration's R&D investments cover the range of activities and disciplines that make up our S&T enterprise. Certainly, NIH receives a healthy share of the increases, but almost every technical agency sees growth over the next five years. The President's budget recognizes that it is essential to invest across the full spectrum of scientific and engineering fields. Biomedical progress depends not only on advances in chemistry and biology, but in physics, engineering, computing, and mathematics as well. That is why the President's investment strategy spans the broadest array of scientific disciplines and extends throughout the R&D spectrum—from basic to applied research, and from civilian to defense activities.
The Administration's proposed FY99 investments in research and development—to a total of $78.2 billion—boosts funding over FY98 levels for: basic research by 8%; applied research by 5%; and University-based research by 6%. The President calls for the largest increases in the histories of two of our flagship research agencies, the NSF and NIH. Further, the budget continues the President's commitment to a 50/50 split between civilian and defense R&D, moving civilian R&D up to 48% of the total.
The centerpiece of the President's R&D proposal is the 21st Century Research Fund. The $31 billion Research Fund is deficit-neutral. It provides for increases in most of the Federal government's civilian research programs—NIH, NSF, CDC, NASA, DOE, Commerce and USDA, among others—which will grow at an overall rate of 8% in FY99, and climb by 32% over the next five years.
Let me repeat; the Research Fund is deficit neutral. Every discretionary program increase in the Fund is fully paid for through new revenue streams [e.g. tobacco legislation] and savings in mandatory programs. Balancing our budget remains a priority for our nation and we must pay for choices we make. Our increased S&T investments are fully paid for — and we will fight for our full budget request.
In Congress, the discovery of science and technology as a broad national interest is beginning to gain some momentum. There are voices calling for a doubling of the R&D investment over ten years. Yesterday I was at a Senate hearing where six senators came forward to discuss the health and future of our national R&D enterprise. It was a bipartisan group—all of them want to move the R&D budget into a central policy position, into the inner circle of political priorities. The Administration supports the sentiment of such efforts and we will work with Congress to figure out how to turn this sentiment into a reality. We must realize that, in the center ring, we must deal with the political and budget realities facing us.
To be more specific, the Senate Resolution calling for a doubling of the budget in ten years has none of the spending specifics attached. The details, if you will, are much more concrete in the transportation bill. A real threat to R&D funding increases is concrete. And asphalt. And more highway demonstration projects. The transportation bill that is now in conference spends nearly $34 billion above the transportation proposal in the President's budget. It has the potential of crowding out the R&D budget. We may find ourselves looking straight into the eyes of last summer's budget numbers that, in the wake of the Balanced Budget Agreement, threatened to come in lower than FY98 proposed or enacted. In fact, depending on how Congress decides to pay for the Transportation bill, we could be looking at significant reductions—let us not kid ourselves—a very large transportation bill will pass in the very near future. But Congress should not lose sight of the importance of R&D to the country—and we must be a strong voice ensuring that this point is made.
When I started these comments, I raised an important question - - where do we go from here? On the edge of change, how do we make sure we leap forward and not fall backwards… how do we avoid getting stuck in cement? The moment of discovery is always a vulnerable one as the new way of thinking challenges the old, and room must be made at the table. If Science and Technology is to be considered a dominant category in our national budget process, we—policy makers, scientists, engineers, and citizens—must provide the additional energy necessary for realizing this change.
Can we make this investment leap? I can answer for the Administration. The President has. And we will fight for this budget and his increased investments in R&D.
Can the political process in Congress maintain and nurture the growing bipartisan interest to put science and technology front and center? Can the numbers grow from six Senators who champion science and technology broadly to 60?
Can the public's increasing interest in science and technology be transformed into a constituency that supports a sustained and strong science and technology investment?
These are questions that challenge all of us in this room to do more. Your instincts and intuition on science and technology have been right on—science and technology must move into the larger political world and take its rightful seat in the national debate. The President and Vice President support this move. We hear similar support in Congress. The edge of change is before us. Let's seize the moment now.