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Preface

U.S. science has thrived in much of the second half of this century,driven by its achievements during World War II, a flourishing nationaleconomy, the onset of the Cold War, the first successful trip byhuman explorers to the moon, the transformation of biology as themolecular basis of genetics, the manifest power of automated computation,the launching of industries obviously seeded by fundamental sciencethat created vast wealth for the country, and a host of crises, eachostensibly with scientific and technical remedies, from energy needsto environmental problems.

But there have been changes. The Cold War is over. The federal budgetis under great stress. The importance of science to the Americanfuture is no longer taken as axiomatic. The United States must establishits position in a global economy. The full employment of talentedyoung U.S. scientists to follow a productive research careeer hasbeen cast into doubt.

These changes have been abrupt. Recently it became clear that a disconnectwas occurring between the fiscal and political realities and thecapacity of the research system to adapt. The result was severe andpredictable, including enormous stress and frustration within theU.S. scientific community. It also became apparent that the mostimmediate impact of these changes was on the physical and mathematicalsciences.

Two years ago, several groups within the National Research Council(NRC) discussed ways to respond, especially members of the Boardon Physics and Astronomy and the Commission on Physical Sciences,Mathematics, and Applications. Members of these groups agreed thatone of the immediate needs was candid discussions of the problemsof U.S. science and its role in serving the nation, among scientists,engineers, and those outside science who could serve as “loving critics.” This recognition led to three dialogues focusing on the changingenvironment for the physical and mathematical sciences. The firstwas held in Chantilly, Virginia, in August 1993 and was so successfulthat two additional dialogues were held in June 1994 in Californiaand Colorado. A report on the Chantilly dialogue has been issued1. This report summarizes the California and Colorado dialogues andwas prepared under

1  

National Research Council. 1994. Beginning a Dialogue on the Changing Environment for the Physicaland Mathematical Sciences, Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics,and Applications, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.



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Regional Dialogues on the Changing Environment for the Physical andMathematical Sciences: Report of Two Conferences: Burlingame, California Boulder, Colorado Preface U.S. science has thrived in much of the second half of this century,driven by its achievements during World War II, a flourishing nationaleconomy, the onset of the Cold War, the first successful trip byhuman explorers to the moon, the transformation of biology as themolecular basis of genetics, the manifest power of automated computation,the launching of industries obviously seeded by fundamental sciencethat created vast wealth for the country, and a host of crises, eachostensibly with scientific and technical remedies, from energy needsto environmental problems. But there have been changes. The Cold War is over. The federal budgetis under great stress. The importance of science to the Americanfuture is no longer taken as axiomatic. The United States must establishits position in a global economy. The full employment of talentedyoung U.S. scientists to follow a productive research careeer hasbeen cast into doubt. These changes have been abrupt. Recently it became clear that a disconnectwas occurring between the fiscal and political realities and thecapacity of the research system to adapt. The result was severe andpredictable, including enormous stress and frustration within theU.S. scientific community. It also became apparent that the mostimmediate impact of these changes was on the physical and mathematicalsciences. Two years ago, several groups within the National Research Council(NRC) discussed ways to respond, especially members of the Boardon Physics and Astronomy and the Commission on Physical Sciences,Mathematics, and Applications. Members of these groups agreed thatone of the immediate needs was candid discussions of the problemsof U.S. science and its role in serving the nation, among scientists,engineers, and those outside science who could serve as “loving critics.” This recognition led to three dialogues focusing on the changingenvironment for the physical and mathematical sciences. The firstwas held in Chantilly, Virginia, in August 1993 and was so successfulthat two additional dialogues were held in June 1994 in Californiaand Colorado. A report on the Chantilly dialogue has been issued1. This report summarizes the California and Colorado dialogues andwas prepared under 1   National Research Council. 1994. Beginning a Dialogue on the Changing Environment for the Physicaland Mathematical Sciences, Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics,and Applications, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

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Regional Dialogues on the Changing Environment for the Physical andMathematical Sciences: Report of Two Conferences: Burlingame, California Boulder, Colorado the direction of the steering committee that organized the two conferences.The committee roster is appended. Those who conceived and implemented the dialogues had no expectationsthat they would solve the immediate problems facing U.S. scienceand its practitioners. Rather, they had two aims: (1) that an honestdiscussion of current problems, realities, and the future would helpto dispel at least some of the confusion and frustration besettingmuch of the research community and (2) that these dialogues wouldlaunch similar efforts in different settings. It is too early totell if the first goal has been achieved, although the participantsin the dialogues clearly, and often enthusiastically, praised themfor their candor and for the insights gained. The second goal—encouragingdialogues by others—has been achieved. The issue—and often the approach, of involving people bothwithin and outside the research system—are currently being addressedin many settings: in the scientific and popular press, in local andnational scientific meetings, within universities and the nationallaboratories, and elsewhere. Given these results, the NRC Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics,and Applications determined that its role in launching a nationaldialogue on the future of the physical and mathematical scienceshad been accomplished. We pass the torch to other groups to continuesuch dialogues. Again, we make no pretense that holding these dialogues has solvedany of the problems facing U.S. science. At the same time, the firststep in addressing any ill is diagnosis, and the dialogues are accomplishingthat. Time will tell whether they have also promoted the beginningsof a cure. Richard N. Zare, Chair Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications National Research Council

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Regional Dialogues on the Changing Environment for the Physical andMathematical Sciences: Report of Two Conferences: Burlingame, California Boulder, Colorado Lastly, I would address one general admonition to all: That theyconsider what are the true ends of knowledge, and that they seekit not either for pleasure of mind, or for contention, or for superiorityto others, or for profit, or fame, or power, or any of these inferiorthings; but for the benefit and use of life; and that they perfectand govern it in charity. For it was for lust of power that the angelsfell, from lust of knowledge that men fell; but of charity therecan be no excess, neither did angel or man ever come in danger by it. —Francis Bacon NOTE: Quote provided at the Vail conference by William Hooke.

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Regional Dialogues on the Changing Environment for the Physical andMathematical Sciences: Report of Two Conferences: Burlingame, California Boulder, Colorado