by Neal Lane
to the President for Science and Technology
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Office of Science and Technology
Sainsbury, Lord Jenkin, distinguished colleagues, good evening.
is always a pleasure for my wife Joni and myself to be in London and certainly,
it is an honor to be here. I am
grateful to Sir Robert May for inviting me to be the speaker at the last
Zuckerman Lecture of the 1900s.
Robert and I share an occupational hazard.
Serving as science advisor to a national government requires one to
garner public acceptance
two fronts simultaneously: as a
scientist, and as a policy specialist. The
people of the United States and the United Kingdom seem increasingly skeptical
in both areas. Witness the
man flying in a hot air balloon suddenly realizes he's lost. He reduces height and spots a man in a field.
He lowers the balloon farther
shouts, "Excuse me, sir, can you tell me where I am?"
The man below says, "Yes, you're in a hot air balloon, hovering
approximately 30 feet above this field."
must work in science," says the balloonist.
do," replies the man. "How did you know?"
says the balloonist, "your answer is technically correct, but it's of
absolutely no use to anyone."
man below replies, "You sir must work in policy."
do," replies the balloonist, "but how'd you know?"
says the man, "you don't know where you are, or where you're going.
You're in the same position you were before we met, but now it's my
science policy advisors, Sir Robert and I would seem to be challenged in both
regards. My remarks tonight are
offered to counter
evening, I will talk about changes underway in U.S. science and technology
policy that reflect the philosophy behind the Vice President's January 1999
challenge to the scientific community. Speaking
before the annual meeting of the AAAS, Vice President Gore called for "a new
compact between our scientific community and our government — one that is
based on rigorous support for fundamental science, along with a shared
responsibility to shape our breakthroughs into a powerful force for progress." I will briefly note the trends that are influencing the
existing compact, discuss how the U.S. has been responding in terms of S&T
policy, and say a few words about where we are headed!
people, in America — and perhaps in the U.K. — now take for granted the
advances in science and technology that have yielded economic prosperity, good
health, a cleaner environment, and enhanced national security.
We, both the scientists who do the research and the taxpayers who fund
and benefit from our work, have settled into a fairly comfortable routine of
investment and payback that has served us well for many years.
But foment in the current political, economic, and social backdrop, as
well as within science and technology, suggests we cannot simply maintain the
status quo if our nations are to prosper in the 21st century.
the most remarkable trend is the increasingly rapid pace of change in science
itself. We see it in Nobel
Prize-winning achievements such as the cooling and trapping of atoms that led to
the successful creation of Bose-Einstein condensates and atom lasers and in the
work of Harry Kroto of Sussex University, in partnership with my former
colleagues at Rice
in the discovery of fullerenes. We
also see it in the cloning of "Dolly" - the sheep with the Mona Lisa
smile; in the remarkable advances in human stem cell research; and in the
impressive progress on the Human
Project, in which the Wellcome Trust is playing such a major role.
Another breakthrough - GPS - will likely make the story I just told
about the balloonist obsolete in a few years, since it's almost unimaginable
that anyone could be lost anywhere on Earth.
no area has contributed more to this acceleration of science and technology than
information technology. The
Internet, specifically, symbolizes the influence of science and technology on
the societal trends
now affect the future of science and technology. In less than a decade, this one tool of modern information
technology has exploded from a network of fewer than 100 sites - researchers
communicating with computers and with one another - to a network of networks,
including the World Wide Web, with more than 100 million users of all ages,
nations, and walks of life who apply it to all sorts of purposes. The Internet
continues to grow - in size and scope, in terms of commercial influence and in
terms of cultural impact. I very
much appreciate the perspective of Thomas Friedman, who in his new book,
The Lexus and the Olive Tree,
suggests that we are
now operating in a system that has replaced Cold War geopolitics - symbolized
by a wall that divided everyone - with globalization - symbolized by the
World Wide Web, which unites everyone. Vice
President Gore announced last week that the U.S. will partner with ten
developing countries and the World Bank to provide technical assistance and
expand Internet access, which will further unite us.
He invites other interested countries to join this initiative as well.
is no end in sight for advances in science and technology or for their impacts
on society. Sir Robert best summed up my assessment of what we can expect
in the 21st century when he said, "Tomorrow's world will be even
more different from today's than today is from yesterday. The change will derive, in unforeseeable ways and on
uncertain time scales, from advances in fundamental understanding of how the
pace and scope of scientific advances create new challenges for us in the policy
area. Boundaries between
traditional disciplines, and even between science - the world of ideas - and
technology - the world of tools - have blurred.
Myriad demands on resources have upset the status quo at institutions
conducting research and development. Young
people - in the
States, at least - continue to spurn science and technology careers, in part
because our primary and secondary schools provide such a poor base of
understanding in mathematics and science. We
may find our population unable to cope with change of the type Sir Robert
the swirl of change around us, doing good science in the 21st century
will likely require the same basic elements we have depended on in the 20th
century. We will still need
curious, creative, and capable minds to perform tomorrow's science and
engineering. We will still need
young people who are passionate about science and mathematics and are committed
to careers in S&T. We will
still need strong and stable government support for S&T, including a solid
core of basic research, particularly in institutions of higher learning.
And we will still need high-quality facilities and instrumentation to
carry on the kind of research that will lead to the next century's
challenge, then, is how to maintain these prerequisites when everything else is
changing. I want to talk now about
three areas of science and technology where the Clinton-Gore Administration has
increased support in response to changing trends: 1) what I will call "broadly enabling" fundamental
research; 2) policy-relevant research; and 3) research on the ethical, legal,
and social implications of advances in science and technology.
the United States, the federal government has an undisputed role as an investor
in fundamental research. Our
commitments to that realm of inquiry are deep and sustaining.
But "broadly enabling" research - research that asks
fundamental questions and at the same time is likely to yield progress in many
scientific fields and technologies - is receiving top priority.
And history leads us to expect this research to produce gains in the
economy and progress toward many other social goals.
In the fiscal year 2000 budget request, President Clinton and Vice
President Gore made basic research on information technology - including all
aspects of computing and communications - the top priority because information
technologies fulfill three critical functions:
these technologies allow us to vastly accelerate the pace of research and
discovery across all scientific fields.
they have become key drivers of the economy.
During the past five years, these technologies have contributed one-third
of America's economic growth.
information technologies are essential for achieving some of our most important
overarching public goals, from health care to education to protecting our
environment and maintaining national security.
President's information technology initiative, if funded by Congress, will
provide a $366 million increase (28%) in Federal IT research.
Much of the new funding
will support long-term
fundamental research, particularly software, but also very high-risk,
long-term research on concepts such as quantum computing and DNA computing.
The initiative will also support advanced
computing infrastructure. We
hope to provide
to the non-defense research community a network of computers approaching the
cutting edge of technology with regard to power in the teraflop domain and
associated support services. Finally,
the proposed initiative would greatly expand research into social, economic, and workforce impacts
of information technology.
I believe there is bipartisan support for
enhanced investment in information technology.
But I anticipate a long, hot summer awaiting the results of our
In addition to support for "broadly enabling" research, the
Clinton Administration has also increased support for policy-relevant research —
research designed not only to extend the frontiers of science, but also to
produce the information we need for wise policy decisions.
need for a sound science base clearer than in the area of environmental policy.
Take, for instance, the debate over climate change.
All stakeholders in this debate have used science, in many legitimate as
well as questionable variants, to support their arguments.
For that reason, we have dedicated ourselves in international and
domestic forums to identifying the types of
that decisionmakers need, determining where our current knowledge base provides
answers or simply raises new questions, and, finally, undertaking the research
deemed most likely to provide the relevant facts.
we approach the task of writing policy-relevant questions for climate change,
nothing leaps out as particularly revolutionary or mysterious.
For instance, a policy-relevant, but policy-neutral, question identified
for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is:
"What are the evidence for, causes of, and consequences of changes in
the Earth's climate since the pre-industrial era?"
Scientists know a lot about the answers to that question, but it can
completely stymie a policy debate if, for whatever reason, people do not hear
the answers. Policy-relevant
questions do not change the nature of the research so much as they focus the
researchers on the need to translate their results into "plain English" - or, perhaps, "plain American," in our case - and the need to fill in gaps
in the knowledge base.
the United States, we have adopted this same emphasis on policy-relevant
questions in our nationwide effort to study and understand the potential
regional consequences of climate variability and change. We have based the assessment on the principles of scientific
excellence and adopted an open and participatory approach linking scientists and
a broad spectrum of stakeholders - who care particularly about a state or
region of the country - that we believe will produce much more influential
results than an "ivory tower" undertaking limited solely to input from
I think it is not an overstatement to say that science has left the ivory tower
and entered the marketplace, which means our results will more and more often
have ethical, legal, and social implications that deserve our increased
advances in biomedical science, particularly, promise so much for society, but
also raise serious ethical questions and challenge deeply held beliefs.
example, the successful cloning of Dolly, rapidly followed by the successful
cloning of mice and cows, raised the possibility — and the fear — that
successful cloning of a human being was not far behind.
This prospect understandably rubs most people the wrong way:
cloning methods have high fatality rates and the survivors often have
abnormalities; but fundamentally,
because we are uncomfortable ethically, morally, and emotionally with the
concept of producing clones of ourselves.
society stands to benefit enormously from potential therapeutic use of human
embryonic stem cells to treat debilitating and currently incurable diseases. However, for many people, that potential does not mitigate
the fact that human embryos are destroyed in the process of obtaining these stem
the United States, we have encouraged open discussion of cloning and stem cell
research under guidance of an independent advisory group - the National
Bioethics Advisory Commission - that operates in the "sunshine," meaning
that it invites and responds to public comment, and all meetings are open to the
public. Your own Human Genetics Advisory Commission recently issued a
report on cloning and stem cell research that made an important contribution to
the international discussion of these issues, by drawing a distinction between
therapeutic and reproductive cloning that will help frame the continuing debate
in the coming months. Last week
your government reaffirmed its opposition to the use of cloning technology for
human reproduction. The U.S.
government expects to receive NBAC's recommendations shortly, and, of course,
the President will consider them carefully before reaffirming or changing U.S.
have also begun to incorporate funding for research that will help us anticipate
and respond to the ethical, legal, and social implications of advances in
science and technology in the very beginning stages of projects.
Earlier I mentioned the special focus of the President's information
technology initiative on the social, economic, and workforce impacts of
information technology. We have
also set aside funds to answer similar questions raised by the Human Genome
Project. In the United States,
funding for this type of research - focusing on the human aspects of science
and technology - is likely to receive more attention in the future.
STEPS NEEDED TO SHEPHERD S&T INTO THE 21ST CENTURY
of the areas of focus I have been discussing
- "broadly enabling" research, policy relevance, and ethical,
legal, and social implications of advances in science and technology - is a
work in progress. We know we have
much more to do.
I believe there are some additional dimensions of science and technology that
require our attention as well. Among
stand out as particularly important: education,
partnerships, and public understanding. They
lie at the heart of what Vice President Gore referred to as the "compact"
between the science and technology
and the American public as represented by its government.
- a very high priority in the Clinton-Gore Administration - is an element of
the compact that needs particular attention.
The Administration has taken steps to ensure that all young people have
a high quality education, with particular emphasis on mathematics, science, and
as we near the 21st century, we in America are still unable to attract a
sufficiently diverse group of individuals to the science and technology
workforce. And we find the
performance of our students
kindergarten through secondary level disappointing in international comparisons.
there has been progress. But, it is not nearly enough.
To make the kind of
progress we really need, I believe we must have consensus either on a new, more
aggressive role for the Federal government or on a modified role for our
partners in academia, in the private sector, and in State and local government.
is not clear that an enhanced Federal role is the best tack. It would be expensive. And
our partners - state and local communities - would likely regard it as
intrusive on their domains if we do not first seek consensus on our goals and
methods. Those with a more
immediate role in the education of
next generation / universities and colleges / State and local governments / may
well be the ones who need to take a more aggressive role in making sure that
public goals are attained. In any
case, this is an area where revisiting the compact is critical.
is just one place where partnership among the stakeholders is a key to exerting
influence. Many S&T objectives
are accomplished through partnerships — involving Federal, State, and
local levels of government, universities, industry, international organizations,
and multiple combinations of these institutions - which must adapt to changing
recurrent bugaboo in the United States involves the blurry line between science
and technology that I referred to earlier.
There is general agreement that technologies moving to the marketplace
are in the sphere
the private sector. But when
cutting-edge science can lead almost instantaneously to marketable technology,
where do you draw the line on government involvement?
example is the broad area of information technology.
Advances in search algorithms or security protocols can have immediate
value to Internet-based firms. When
I ask Congress for IT research funds, they want to know why industry is not
taking responsibility for this research. We
know firms do conduct some basic IT research, but it is difficult for individual
companies to obtain the full benefits from their investments, often because the
timing is not optimal.
particularly in the search for new drugs and better agriculture, also poses some
difficult questions. In these areas
basic research raises the specter of commercial advantage, through genetic
engineering and other technologies. Even
if we resolve issues related to funding of precompetitive and competitive
technologies, we still must take proper account of public opinion and societal
values. I will return to
biotechnology — especially to comment on genetically modified organisms — in
given the importance of partnerships, we must ask some policy-relevant
questions. What kinds of
partnerships do we need to provide the appropriate precompetitive research that
makes specific, marketable advances possible?
How can we create standards that facilitate movement to the marketplace?
Is there a way - through policy - to ensure that we take proper
account of the concerns and values of the public?
Revisiting the compact may not answer all our questions about
partnerships. But constructive
dialogue among the partners should steer us in the right direction.
are, perhaps, the senior partners in the compact between science and society, at
least in terms of responsibility. And
there is something I would ask of scientists in the way of change, as well;
something that I believe will go a long way toward improving public
understanding of science and technology. That
is to become what I will call civic scientists.
a vivid example of such a scientist, we need only invoke the namesake of this
distinguished lecture series, Lord Zuckerman himself, whose training in the life
sciences made him valuable to the British government in researching the
biological effects of bomb blasts at the start of World War II.
For several decades after the War, he extended his scientific training
and expertise to social and civic applications, including serving as the first
Chief Scientific Advisor to the British government - still a most noble
calling, I might add.
believe that even more so than in the past, scientists and engineers must get
visibly involved in societal issues in their communities, in their states and
local communities and at the national level.
But the case for the civic scientist applies just as forcefully at the
international level, for two reasons. The
first is the universality of scientific knowledge.
And the second is the dramatic and accelerating internationalization, or
globalization, of science and technology.
best science depends on cross-fertilization of the best minds, without regard
for political boundaries. I must
take this opportunity to
that I am deeply troubled by the current climate of panic and isolation that has
gripped the U.S. Congress in the wake of breaches in security at
of our national laboratories. National
security is a serious matter, but
overreaction threatens the very core of scientific progress - free exchange of
ideas. I am personally dedicated to
maintaining open doors for civilian research even as we increase security for
classified information. Secretary
of Energy Bill Richardson is taking steps to do just that.
as I started to say, we need global cross-fertilization - open exchange of
ideas and a commitment to working together as civic scientists - to deal with
issues where the science is moving quickly toward the marketplace and where the
public no longer blindly accepts authority.
Science, policy, and politics have converged in many such areas in recent
years, but I would like to briefly address one that has become a very sticky
wicket around the globe - genetically modified organisms.
almost 20 years after research on the little-known Agrobacterium resulted in the
first successful and dependable genetic transformation system for crops,
desirable genes from most any species
be modified to function not just in other plants, but in specific tissues
specific times. That advance opens
the door for new opportunities to enable resistance to diseases and pests,
drought tolerance, improved nutritional properties, and other beneficial traits
that can be used to improve consumer health, protect the environment, and
increase the farmer's bottom line. Biotechnology
is no miracle solution. But with
over 800 million malnourished people in the world today, those are very
with capability comes responsibility:
for regulatory agencies to protect human health and the environment through a
process that is open and inspires public trust;
for industry to develop products that benefit the consumer and the environment;
for consumers to thoughtfully hold government and industry accountable for
their decisions and ensure that those decisions are based on sound science.
third responsibility is a loud clarion call for the civic scientist.
As scientists we need to communicate risks and benefits clearly to the
public and respond to their concerns. Against
the backdrop of the media - which vary dramatically in their respect for facts
- the work of the civic scientist is desperately needed.
It is our responsibility to work with the media, civic organizations, and
other outreach mechanisms to make sure consumers have the information needed to
make informed decisions. People
need to feel confident that their food is safe, wholesome, and good value for
their families. Consumers deserve
nothing less than transparency in the science policy debate and our very best
efforts at public education. I am
certain that public understanding will be a major objective of the U.S. National
Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society when they meet on this topic in July.
the U.S. we have made a good faith downpayment on the challenge from the Vice
President to develop a new compact between science and society:
enabling research, exemplified by the information technology initiative, has
taken top priority on our agenda.
have integrated stakeholder interests in their projects, increasing the
policy-relevance of their work.
legal, and social implications of advances in science and technology are now
starting to get the attention they deserve from the outset of research.
- the single most important factor for continued prosperity and closing the
gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" - has become the primary
focus of all parties to the compact.
in the S&T continuum - from academia, business, and government at all
levels - have reassessed their goals and explored how they will join efforts
to make a whole greater than the sum of the parts.
of hitting the snooze button, scientists are responding to the wakeup calls
brought on by GMOs and other contentious science policy debates and working with
the public to achieve better understanding of
power and limits of science and technology.
have a lot of work left to do. But
our vision - a continuing stream of scientific advances, fueling technological
developments that will improve the economy and the quality of life for everyone
in the next century - keeps us going.
collect what my office refers to as a "Jetsons" file of speculations on the
future of science and technology. It's
named in honor of a one-time popular cartoon TV show about life in a futuristic
space age. These
"opportunities" have sustained me and my White House colleagues through many
a long, dark day of budget battles.
is more satisfying than imagining developments in the 21st century
that may mean that:
will be able to visit Mars first virtually, but eventually, in person - with
our advanced understanding of aging - perhaps me amongst them.
will be able to convert sunlight to liquid fuel and deliver the fuel directly
from their root systems to underground pipelines.
types of MEMS - microelectricalmechanical systems - will be
to get long distance communications costs down practically to zero, or be
assembled into robotic organisms that hunt for survivors in
buildings, or deliver drugs directly to diseased tissue.
And 1,000-fold further down in miniaturization, nanotechnology is on the
finally - especially after Dolly has shown us what females can
on their own - will give us the answer to that urgent question, "why should
concluding, I want to pause to take note of an approaching milestone —
not a millennium, not a century, but a bicentennial. Next
will mark the observance of the 200th anniversary of the election of
Thomas Jefferson as the third U.S. President.
Jefferson revered science and exploration, and chartered the Lewis and
Clark Expedition — an exploration of the American West whose impact on society
he could scarcely have imagined. I
can think of no more fitting way to honor Mr. Jefferson than by committing to 21st
century expeditions in science and technology that simultaneously push the
frontiers of knowledge and improve peoples' lives.
am fortunate to work for a President and a Vice President who share a compelling
vision of the power of science and technology and a commitment to use those
tools to prepare for the 21st century. Bill Clinton said last year that he foresees in the next 50
world where climatic disruption has been halted; where wars on cancer and AIDS
have long since been won; where humanity is safe from the destructive force of
chemical and biological weapons, wielded by rogue states or conscienceless
terrorists and drug runners; where our noble career of science is pursued and
then advanced by children of every race and background; and where the benefits
of science are broadly shared in countries both rich and poor.
past 50 years have been exceptional times for science and technology.
I look forward to working together with all of you, particularly because
of the special ties between the U.S. and the U.K. - but also with our
colleagues around the world - to achieve the kinds of changes outlined by the
President for the next 50 years, so that people come to look at such progress as
typical, rather than exceptional.
closing I want to share a story I heard about "old England" - maybe
someone can tell me whether it's true. There
was a budget debate among the faculty at an Oxford college. The dons were debating what to do with all of their college's
money. Most seemed to agree that
buying land would be the best use for the money, since, as one faculty member
observed, "for the past thousand years, land has proven to be a very wise
investment for the college." At
this point, the college's whiskered old patriarch stood and said, "true,
but the past thousand years have been atypical."
for our two nations, and our world, the past 1,000 years, past 100 years, even
past 10 years, have been atypical. And
that's a good thing. Let's work
together on another century of changes even more marvelous than those we see
today. Let's work to insure that as
we continue on this accelerating spiral of progress in science and technology,
we involve our
much more directly than we have done in the past.
Let's make sure that all people around the world better understand the
issues, participate fully in decisions about how to deal with risks, and,
especially, enjoy all the many benefits offered by science and technology.
you again for the opportunity to speak to you tonight.