found anyone who doesn't think research is critical. In no small part, it's what you bet on to be able to respond to the unknown. But with regard to complex technologies, there are other inputs that are important that are not research inputs. They're primarily organizational.

Michael P. Doyle, Research Corporation: I submit that the problem that you're dealing with may be one that is limited by the data available. The data that you have that could speak to the issue may not, in fact, be a reliable measure of what you're trying to measure.

Let me give you one point in fact. A 1970 study was produced by the Illinois Institute of Technology. This was a study commissioned by the National Science Foundation, and its purpose was to trace the origin of critical technologies. They picked out four technologies, two of which were transistors and birth control pills, and traced the fundamental development of each technology over a period of 100 years or so, compiling a list of the individual discoveries involved. This study clearly shows that research was a critical feature of the development of these technologies—that certain elements could have not been developed were it not for discoveries that were made in that period of time, both in terms of fundamental scientific discovery and in terms of discoveries that brought those materials to the marketplace.

I submit that, were we to do such a study now, we would arrive at similar conclusions. In fact, a few years ago the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology traced this same path for a set of critical technologies (although in a less direct way) and concluded that R&D, either as fundamental developments or as the basis for bringing those technologies to the marketplace, was fundamental to the process. So I wonder, why is there such difficulty in identifying those activities as being critical? I think it is the limitations in the data available to provide those types of measures rather than the realistic system in which we all work.

Don E. Kash: Well, I start with the assumption that you cannot find data that will convince everyone. One of the masons that you have great difficulty is because this whole discussion is embedded in ideology. You, of course, know that TRACES was study number two. It was preceded by HINDSIGHT. In fact, some people believe that TRACES was a direct result of HINDSIGHT. HINDSIGHT was an attempt by the Department of Defense to define the role that its fundamental research funding had made to weapon systems. It wasn't very successful. The National Science Foundation, which has some interest in defending fundamental research, got the Illinois Institute of Technology to do TRACES. TRACES found that there was a relationship.

If you operate in this town, is there a message? I suggest to you that that is what's important here. I don't think there is any argument about the importance of research. What we're dealing with is a set of circumstances where people are trying to force the agencies (and very frequently, corporations) to demonstrate a cause-and-effect quantitative linkage between research and commercial products. It seems to me that Professor Hounshell's point is the key one. If you try to do that, you immediately get yourself into trouble, and you start arguing over the process.

There's a more important issue as far as I'm concerned. Innovation involves important inputs beyond research. The most important one of these today, I believe, is organizational flexibility. With regard to complex technologies, I would, for example, eliminate all antitrust regulations, because they're barriers to information flow. I think that simple act would be an important contribution to the innovation process.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement