. "Highlights of Both Conferences." Regional Dialogues on the Changing Environment for the Physical and Mathematical Sciences: Report of Two Conferences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.
Thirty-seven participated in the Burlingame dialogue, including physicaland mathematical scientists from academic institutions (6); scientists/engineersfrom industry (5); entrepreneurs/founders of “high-tech” companies (4); engineers/computerscientists from academic institutions (5); officials/staff of thenational laboratories (3); members of the press (3); a technologytransfer specialist (1); deans and other academic administrators(3); social scientists (2); officials/staff of federal agencies (3);a science and technology policy analyst and writer (1); and a congressionalstaffer (1). A list of participants is appended.
Themes and Issues
Several broad topics were the focus of much of the discussion atBurlingame: (1) generation of wealth and technology transfer, (2)preparing professionals in science and technology for the futureeconomy, and (3) clarifying and affecting the future of the physicaland mathematical sciences (including political activism and the engagementof professional societies).
In that context, a number of themes emerged, shared by many but notall of the conferees:
There is certainly no lack of new “frontiers” for the physical and mathematical sciences, but within that truism several realities prevail, judging from acollation of comments: “the science budgets can't continue to grow, or rather growth willoccur in some fields at the expense of others”; “there should be nosupport for science for the sake of science”; “the physical sciencesare a means to an end”; “need to sharpen our rhetoric, such as how output(education and new knowledge) relates to investments”; “what does sciencecontribute to the general welfare”; “need to ask the unthinkable question:How much science can be absorbed?” The issue was focused more sharplyusing high-energy physics as an example: What value is placed onsupport of the most basic inquiries where the rewards are intellectual,the palpable national gains distant and indirect, and the level ofpublic support required very high, both absolutely and against theneeds of other sciences?
Is the United States losing its capacity for carrying out researchwith very long time horizons? Who will do the long-term, precompetitiveresearch once pursued by, for example, Bell Laboratories and du Pont?In one discussion, a participant traced the basic origins of thetechnologies embedded in the laptop computer and asked where ourfuture society might
Both this classification and that for Vail participants are necessarilyarbitrary and imprecise; for example, the listing of current workoften masks a scientific background—the entrepreneur with a doctoratein physics, the ethicist trained in molecular biology, and so on.In reality, the common strength of the participants at both Burlingameand Vail was scientific understanding.