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both support continuing education for scientists and engineers who want to sharpen their skills and acquire new ones. These people constitute the best mechanism for transferring knowledge from teachers and researchers in higher education to business, government, education, and other institutions. A key aspect of a student's educational experience is working with researchers who are supported by the federal government; alternatively, graduate and postdoctoral researchers receive fellowship funds directly via the research that they conduct under the guidance of a mentor. The outcome of this process is a new generation of knowledgeable people capable of addressing societal problems. Our federal laboratories also train personnel who can contribute to agency missions and to private-sector activity.
Finally, the nation benefits as agencies strive to meet their objectives. Mission advancement is an outcome that is specific to particular mission agencies. Each agency has a particular mission that is linked to societal objectives, such as improving the environment, developing new forms of energy, probing the universe, developing new technologies, improving the health of our people, and providing for the national defense. And each agency funds research—both basic and applied—that is intended to accomplish its particular mission and thus achieve societal goals. The results can be as varied as discovering a new planet, reducing the cost of energy, and developing techniques of warfare that require fewer personnel.
Goals of Federal Investment in Research
Given the variety of research supported by the federal government and the outcomes of its investment, what are the appropriate goals for agencies that support research? In its 1993 report Science, Technology, and the Federal Government: National Goals for a New Era, COSEPUP discussed this issue and made the following recommendation: