Panel Discussion: Government Session

Charles Zukoski, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: How do the individual agencies view education as part of the role when they are funding research initiatives in academic institutions? Clearly, NSF puts a lot of thought into this, but I am curious about the other agencies.

Patrica M. Dehmer: Education is not a prime mission in terms of the Energy Policy Act for the Department of Energy, but we take this issue very seriously. The national laboratories all have large educational activities, which have been regrettably cut by Congress in the last year. But we track and monitor the number of undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows that we support, and it is rare that we would fund a grant that doesn't have those components to them.

We also believe that the scientific user facilities that we operate are one of the best training grounds for students. So we aggressively try to maintain high student populations of these facilities.

Mary Groesch: At NIH, education also is important, but it is a small part of what we do. There are four components within the Office of Science Policy, one of which is the Office of Science Education. A number of the activities of that office, one of which is the Mini-Med School that you may be familiar with, have been very popular. The Mini-Med School is now going on the road to other parts of the country to help educate the public about the implications of scientific advances for health care.

Each institute also sponsors activities that relate to education and outreach to schools. They prepare a lot of material for students and for their parents and teachers. But, again, this is a fairly small portion of our overall activities.

Beverly K. Hartline, Office of Science and Technology Policy: Doesn't NIH still have a major traineeship program at the graduate level? Contributing to the flow of medical research professionals is certainly a mission of NIH.



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--> Panel Discussion: Government Session Charles Zukoski, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: How do the individual agencies view education as part of the role when they are funding research initiatives in academic institutions? Clearly, NSF puts a lot of thought into this, but I am curious about the other agencies. Patrica M. Dehmer: Education is not a prime mission in terms of the Energy Policy Act for the Department of Energy, but we take this issue very seriously. The national laboratories all have large educational activities, which have been regrettably cut by Congress in the last year. But we track and monitor the number of undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows that we support, and it is rare that we would fund a grant that doesn't have those components to them. We also believe that the scientific user facilities that we operate are one of the best training grounds for students. So we aggressively try to maintain high student populations of these facilities. Mary Groesch: At NIH, education also is important, but it is a small part of what we do. There are four components within the Office of Science Policy, one of which is the Office of Science Education. A number of the activities of that office, one of which is the Mini-Med School that you may be familiar with, have been very popular. The Mini-Med School is now going on the road to other parts of the country to help educate the public about the implications of scientific advances for health care. Each institute also sponsors activities that relate to education and outreach to schools. They prepare a lot of material for students and for their parents and teachers. But, again, this is a fairly small portion of our overall activities. Beverly K. Hartline, Office of Science and Technology Policy: Doesn't NIH still have a major traineeship program at the graduate level? Contributing to the flow of medical research professionals is certainly a mission of NIH.

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--> Mary Groesch: Absolutely. And I wasn't including the research training, which is a major effort for NIH. Beverly K. Hartline: One of the things that we have been doing in the Office of Science and Technology Policy is working with the agencies and Dr. Horrigan and her colleagues at OMB. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with the group here—to the best of my recollection—the gist of a memorandum that went from Dr. Jack Gibbons, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to all of the agencies that have science and technology elements. The memo noted that OSTP is working with OMB to review the performance and strategic plans of the agencies with respect to R&D to ensure that these plans don't totally miss out on some element required by GPRA. We want to make sure that all agencies treat their science and technology elements in some visible way in their strategic plans. You heard today from agencies for whom science and technology are major components and can't be missed. However, there are many other federal agencies where science and technology are smaller, but we believe are nonetheless extremely important—for example, the Environmental Protection Agency, which has a $7 billion budget and only about $500 million or so that is in science and technology. Of course, if you ask the highest levels at Commerce, Interior, and the other agencies what they are about, science is probably not the first word out of their mouths. And yet the science and technology activities that are supported in those agencies are essential to the regulatory and management activities that are the primary mission of the agency. So we intend to make sure that all of the agencies include their science and technology programs in their strategic plans, so it can't be missed or mismanaged. We are also interested in making sure that (1) they address coordination within and among the agencies; (2) their performance measures accurately reflect the performance, contribution, and value of that agency in a way that even nonexperts can appreciate; and (3) the performance plan will lead to both meaningful numerical and alternative or qualitative types of performance goals and measures that can be accountable and to some extent audited. I use those words in the most broad definition; that is, they can't just be hand waved around, but they aren't only counting beans either. We are interested in making sure that the documents have the potential to be useful to the agency managers and staff and, last but not least, we hope that they promote and do not interfere with scientific excellence, creativity, and innovation. When you are doing things like GPRA, which look very prescriptive, the fear is that they will make everybody just go through a set of steps and check off some boxes. You could lose the excellence, the creativity, and the innovation that are certainly the hallmark of scientific research and the reason that the taxpayer puts money into these three agencies, and into many others as well. Judith S. Sunley: I heard a rumor to the effect that the strategic plan from the Department of Defense had one page that referred to research and development. Given the large effort that the Department of Defense has in that area, it seems a little bit out of balance if you take the $70 billion, in our federal R&D effort, and recognize that half of that is defense oriented. I don't know if that rumor is true or not, but it illustrates the difficulty that OSTP has because there are a lot of other things on the mind of the Department of Defense as well. Beverly K. Hartline: I don't know if that rumor is true either. Nonetheless, Judy's remarks are very cogent. The Department of Defense does spend some $35 billion a year in science in R&D, most of

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--> which is in development and applied to specific weapons systems. However, $3 billion or $4 billion is in basic and applied research. That part of the agency is particularly vulnerable, because the Joint Chiefs of Staff don't see that investment translating into battlefield superiority on any time scale that is within their watch. With the Department of Defense budget being under pressure and the numbers of forces, ships, and airplanes being reduced, I have heard unfortunate news about decisions on certain elements of research laboratories' budgets, which I hope isn't true. But I don't know.