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Future R&D Environments: A Report for the National Institute of Standards and Technology
shaped by the environment or the context in important ways, including governmental investment, tax, and regulatory policies; institutional arrangements; and social values. Public and private decisions on funding R&D, including projects, facilities and equipment, and education and training, influence what will be pursued and how fast. Indeed, there are indications that public views on the appropriateness of certain research directions will be reflected not merely in funding decisions, but also in direct regulation. Current law, for example, proscribes the development of software to circumvent certain commercial encryption systems, and it seems possible that certain kinds of human cloning may soon be proscribed.
• The institutions that encourage, support, and regulate both research and technological innovation will be increasingly challenged by changes in industrial structure, management, and financing of R&D; by the increasingly global nature of technological innovation as well as the economy; and by social pressures that will affect the legislative agenda. On the one hand, the challenge will be to design antitrust, tax, intellectual property, and capital formation policies to reflect how technical innovation actually happens. On the other hand, the agencies and institutions, both public and private, that fund and provide various kinds of infrastructure to support innovation—from educational institutions to standards developers to funding agencies to those responsible for information and data banks— will have to adjust their programs if they are to be effective in the changed setting.
Providing a nourishing climate for S&T, especially work that crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries, will be a challenge for all participants in the enterprise. Universities will need to craft means for strong multidisciplinary research without impairing the quality of the research enterprise. They will also need to protect their ability to conduct long-term research that may be of high risk even as pressure for goal-oriented research grows. Given that central corporate research is likely to continue to decline and that intense competitive pressures will continue to build for technology-based industries, the government must foster longterm and fundamental research across the broad frontiers of science and technology. Industry for its part must continue to recognize the critical value of academic research in enriching the base of fundamental knowledge on which it depends and the role of the government in supplying long-term support, or “patient capital.” It will also be important for graduate education to be designed so that it equips new researchers to embark on satisfying careers and gives them the ability to respond quickly to new research opportunities, especially in interdisciplinary settings.1
These points have been made in many previous articles and reports. Pressures on and changes in universities have been the subject of several collections of articles, including Ronald G. Ehrenberg, ed., The American University: National Treasure or Endangered Species. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Uni