Dr. Neal Lane
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology

Regional Meeting on Government-University Partnership Purdue University

November 4, 1999


Thank you.  I'm delighted to be here today.  Like you, teaching and research captured my heart and my mind early in my career.  With the Fall we've had in Washington, I kind of wonder what I'm doing so far from the campus!

The first thing I would like to do this morning is thank Purdue University and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation for convening this meeting.  It will help lay the groundwork for a strong government-university research partnership in the 21st century.  A number of people merit special thanks:  President Steve Beering (President of Purdue), Gary Isom (Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School of Purdue), Ginger Hinshaw (Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Wisconsin, Madison), Barbara Allen (Director of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation), and Roger Clark (Director Emeritus of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation).  In addition to the planners of this meeting, I also want to acknowledge Homer Neal, who was instrumental in the statement of principles that emerged from the 1996 University of Michigan conference on the government-university partnership.  And I want to recognize my colleagues from Washington, Ernie Moniz and Sybil Francis, who have worked so hard to produce the NSTC report and these followup discussions on the partnership that lies at the heart of America's success in science and technology.

As you know, science and technology have been buffeted about - with mixed results - during this appropriations season, a number of   DOE science programs received a disappointing mark - particularly the Spallation Neutron Source - and Congress continues to turn a deaf ear to calls from industry and academia for strong and stable funding for energy R&D.  We all breathed a sigh of relief when - at the urging of Jack Lew and John Podesta - the conference rejected the House marks for NSF and NASA and brought in budgets close to the President's request.  Unfortunately NASA's budget is loaded with earmarks for favorite projects and institutions –a growing, bipartisan problem.  The continuing resolution that has kept NIH in business for the past few weeks expires tomorrow, and the fate of its funding bill - which does provide a substantial increase - remains unclear.

How did we reach a point where investment in science and technology - investment that creates jobs, strengthens our nation's position as a world leader, and improves the quality of life - is the subject of political brinkmanship?  Could it have anything to do with the absence of Newt Gingrich?

A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Gingrich placed an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for a 20 percent increase in all areas of scientific research before Congress leaves town - and a doubling in 5 years.  Of course, that's relatively easy for him to say, now that he's out of government - but it's refreshing to hear that kind of bold thinking.  The Administration in its report "Science in the National Interest" called for a national rate of R&D funding - government and private sector combined - equivalent to 3 percent of GDP.  Current figures show we'll be at 2.8% in 1999, and the highest rate ever recorded was 2.9% in 1964 (in the heat of the space race)*.  So, we are getting there - but due to Private Sector - Federal Government support has continued to drop.  It will take a national, bipartisan, long-term commitment to investment in the future, to keeping the country at the forefront of advances in science and technology in the 21st century.

Many of you have been involved over the years in the ongoing debate on the "right" level of funding for R&D.  I know that we're here today to focus on the government-university research partnership, but I welcome your thoughts, suggestions, and recommendations on this broader issue as well.

In the next few minutes, I'd like to provide an overview of the issue that brings us together today - the government–university research partnership - and share a few ideas about steps the partners could take to strengthen the relationship and our collective contributions to the national good.

PRD Background and the NSTC Report

Early in his first term President Clinton established the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to advise him on how science and technology can be used to make the nation stronger and how the tools of governance can strengthen the S&T enterprise.  NSTC soon decided to examine the health of the 50-year-old government-university research partnership.  That partnership is so important that we needed to know how it is faring in the face of the enormous global changes that have affected the conduct of research and the quality of education.  The NSTC's report, Renewing the Federal Government-University Research Partnership for the 21st Century, is the basis for our discussion today.

When the President received the NSTC Council's report, he called on the Council to work with universities toward three goals, which I want to review briefly.

The first goal is to replace today's patchwork of rules and regulations with a statement of principles to guide the partnership.

A statement of principles will help educate interested and influential people about the importance of the government-university research partnership.  Why is that necessary?  For one reason, a former President of the United States once asked, "Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?"  Well, that misses the whole point:  Research is an investment in the future.  We cannot always predict the outcome, but we do know from decades of experience that in the aggregate it is a wise investment to make.  Everybody should be able to understand this argument.

A statement of principles also can help guide our thinking and our decisions in times of change.  How often have you heard a fellow faculty member characterize some government action as the "dumbest thing I ever heard of"?  Why, I even heard a provost make that comment once!  Usually, when people react this way, it's because the particular governmental action appears arbitrary - or even capricious.  Without guiding principles to inform the action and the reaction, it's easy to assume someone just dreamed the idea up in some back room and decided to go with it.

I know you have set aside time specifically to discuss the principles.  Please let us know:  Did we get things right?  Did we leave anything out?  What would you change?  We plan to publish a revised statement of principles by next April.

Our second goal is to strengthen the links between research and education.  Successful integration of research and education lies at the core of quality university experience.  In this arena, universities have the lead.  Government can remove some stumbling blocks, which I'll get to in a moment, but universities determine the curriculum requirements and provide the opportunities and incentives for undergraduates as well as graduate students to participate in the scientific process.  They make the decisions that most directly influence the diversity of our graduate school populations.  It's a big job.  Everyone expects outstanding performance.  Tell us how we can work together to make some progress.

The final goal is rules that make sense.  The benefits of this goal are obvious.  But I do want to give one example.  The dual role of students - students as learners and students as active researchers - has caused untold confusion for bean counters who attempt to divide the research and education enterprise into financial or operational components.  That exercise reduces the effectiveness of the enterprise as a whole.  Before I leave government, I hope we will eliminate government policies that force universities to make artificial distinctions that characterize graduate students as either students, with no employee status, or employees, with no consideration of their studies.

The President has put forward some ambitious but achievable goals for the government-university research partnership.  I hope we can count on your help in meeting them.

Now I would like to talk for a minute about the universities' role as educators of the next generation of S&T workers, the mainstays of the 21st century economy.  Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, openly credits technology for the nation's phenomenal economic performance.  To continue that performance, the nation needs people who can create knowledge and use it to propel the knowledge-based economy.

Let me quote the President in this context:  "A world-class education for all children is essential to combating the fear, the ignorance, the prejudice that undermine freedom all across the globe today in the form of ethnic, religious and racial hatreds.  It is essential to creating a worldwide middle class.  It is essential to global prosperity.  It is essential to fulfilling the most basic needs of the human body and the human spirit. That is why the 21st century must be the century of education and the century of the teacher."

Reflecting on the President's statement, we should ask ourselves:  Are we ready for a century in which the most valuable resource will not be something we dig or pump out of the ground, but instead will be educated people?  The Department of Commerce tells us that 60 percent of new jobs in the year 2020 will require skills that only 22 percent of our workers have today.  What are we doing to make up the difference?  Universities can't handle the job alone.  Our K-12 programs and community colleges will have to carry much of the load.  How can we help them do that?

We can do more research on learning.  On the recommendation of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), we have initiated a new large-scale educational research program to see what works and what doesn't in terms of approaches to teacher preparation, student learning, and the use of educational technology.

But, we don't have to wait on the research results to make some improvements in some known problem areas.  For example:

· We know we need national standards for achievement in science and mathematics, but we still have to contend with school boards that deny evolution and so-called reformers who think "back to basics" means "dull drill," "rote memorization," and "teach to the test."

· We know individuals will only succeed in our complex economy if they understand and can use math and science - the concepts - the process of thinking - and the tools, but many people never take a science course after high school.

· We know too few of our K-12 teachers are prepared to teach math and science, yet the people who could most readily help them - the physicists, chemists, biologists, and mathematicians –rarely set foot in our schools of education.  And, to be fair, I'm not sure how welcome they would be.

· We know the U.S. economy will need more scientists, engineers, and people with technical training, but the fastest growing populations - minority populations - are not attracted to those fields.

Working together, the federal government and universities can do something about these problems.  I hope you will give some thought to the appropriate roles for all of us in improving S&T education for the 21st century, and that you will let us know what you think.

This meeting has a very full agenda, and I certainly don't want my additional questions to you to get us off track.  They're simply a reflection of this nation's tremendous dependence on universities for our future well-being and of this Administration's deep conviction that anything we do to improve education is best done in partnership with our universities.

Today, my colleagues from Washington and I are here to listen to your concerns - to learn from you what we got right and what we didn't quite get right in this report, and to hear your thoughts on how to address the issues most critical to the partnership.  I especially look forward to hearing the report from your discussions of the statement of principles.

In closing, thank you for convening this meeting today.  We want to be good partners and we cannot do that if we do not hear from you.  This opportunity for dialogue helps ensure we meet our partnership obligations.  Thank you.  I look forward to the rest of the meeting.

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