Speakers at the January 2010 DOE workshop from organizations and agencies with a focus on basic research also shared common opinions, but their opinions differed from the opinions of those at that workshop who expressed a focus on applied research. Those who emphasized basic research considered it important to examine every proposal and proposer and to ask whether each team had the expertise, equipment, and facilities to succeed. They agreed that there is a need for competent researchers, but they also saw a need to fund new researchers and ideas. They contended that diversity of peer reviewers helps to enhance recognition of innovative proposals.
Participants at the DOE workshop highlighted a need to collectively evaluate the importance both of advancing the state of the art in basic research and of performing applied research.
For the second part of his presentation, Turner examined three stakeholder groups that he believes should be considered by government laboratories when assessing the satisfaction of stakeholder needs: the U.S. Congress, the Executive Branch, and the public.
The Congress is a trailing indicator, rather than a leading indicator. It is difficult for Congress to influence without achieving a consensus. Congress reports to its members’ constituents, the voting public. Responding to congressional leadership is important for the members of Congress, as is being mindful of reelection. Congress is a legal society in the sense that approximately half of the U.S. Senate and a third of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives are lawyers. For the Congress, it is axiomatic that a good anecdote is the coin of the realm.
So where does assessment evidence fit in? It is one step removed from the Congress. Congressional staff review assessment reports and have a key role in drafting bills. The congressional authorizing committee chair influences the Appropriations Committee chair. These are ultimate targets and prime readers of assessment reports. In general, congressional attention is thinly spread.
Other targets of assessment reports are the Executive Branch, support agencies (e.g., the Congressional Research Service and the Government Accountability Office), and think tanks (e.g., the National Research Council and the Cato Institute). Reports from those institutions make a great impact. The National Research Council and other think tanks have good reputations with the Congress.
The Executive Branch usually has its way during appropriations, and so influencing the Executive Branch is important. The most important stakeholder, though, is the public.
In his opening remarks, John Sommerer noted that organizations are motivated by the desire to innovate. The context within which an R&D organization exists is