need to nurture relationships between polymer researchers and practitioners of medical, biological, electronic, and other fields of application. These researcher-practitioner relationships are poorly established in the United States at this time, and federal funding policies could enhance such interactions, for example, by encouraging joint grants to foster collaboration.
Another concern arises from the interdisciplinary nature of polymer science and engineering, and the lack of the field's integration into most university curricula. Isolated faculty members specializing in polymer research can be found in many chemistry, chemical engineering, and materials science and engineering departments, yet at many universities the barriers between departments prevent effective interdisciplinary collaboration in polymer research and teaching. Most students in technical programs currently receive little training in polymer science and engineering, in spite of the fact that in many of these fields more than half of the students will eventually pursue careers in which they will be centrally involved with polymers. As achievements in polymer research become more accessible to faculty in traditional fields, polymer science may be expected to become part of the core education in science. In the interim, substantial benefits would result from an emphasis in academic programs on forming teams across groups or disciplines to carry out interdisciplinary work at the frontiers of polymer science and engineering.
The comprehensive understanding of international and national developments and planning for constructive change involving government, industry, and academia, therefore, are central to our nation's full enjoyment of the many benefits of polymer science and engineering research.
The committee's conclusions and recommendations are based on the following tenets. First, it is essential that a strong basic research community be sustained. Short-term or product research will not suffice to prepare for future challenges. Second, strong ties between basic research and applications need to be maintained in order to reap maximum commercial benefits. Thus, industry must continue polymer research and maintain communication with academic scientists and engineers. Finally, the committee believes that success in developing the next generation of commercial polymers will depend on strong and extensive collaborative research at the interfaces between polymers and other areas of science and engineering.
Summarized below are the committee's main findings and recommendations resulting from its deliberations. Additional conclusions and recommendations are given in the main text of the report.