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CHAPTER VIII SOME GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON CONTROL OF RESEARCH In the preparation of the preceding chapters the writer has noted some phases of the conduct of research which do not directly relate to the points covered in those chapters, but which are pertinent to the general purpose in view. Before attempting to define desirable limits of central financial control of scientific endeavor within state govern- ments, a brief summary of these points will therefore be undertaken. It appears very clearly that the states which have been studied have no clearly defined policy with regard to the extent to which scien- tific investigation shall be undertaken nor with regard to the condi- tions under which it shall be prosecuted. There is no segregation of funds for scientific research, no accounting in terms of research projects under way, no summary of results achieved, no correlation of work or workers, no plan for future proj ects and no eRective machinery for making such plans on a comprehensive scale. The state governments drift along as one incident or another happens to bring about the establishment or the abandonment of scientific work. Many scientific divisions, of course, have carefully matured plans, but the state as a whole has no plan. The state government is not conceived as a research agency, and plans in terms of administrative responsibilities to which scientific investigation is secondary. Granting that the administrative responsibilities are necessarily of primary, importance, it may still be urged that the coordination and planning of scientific investigation is worth while in order to further a function which, if secondary, is nevertheless of great importance. It has been impressed on the writer many times that success in obtaining adequate financial support for scientific work depends far less upon the budget methods employed than upon the personality of the scientist, or department head representing the scientist, as that per- sonality is revealed to the appropriations committee of the legislature. This committee contains usually the leaders of the legislative body, who are men of considerable experience in the actual operation of government and who know pretty accurately how-far it is wise or feasible to go in appropriating money. In most cases, perhaps, they are not very clear as to the value or importance of specific pieces of research; nor can it be said that they are usually competent to evaluate the professional standing of an histologist, a bacteriologist, or a psychiatrist. :Finding themselves not competent to make decisions on the technical importance of the scientific projects which are proposed ~7
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118 FINANCIAL CONTROL OF RESEARCH to be financed, they necessarily fall back on their evaluation of the scientist as a man. Hence the personality of the scientist, his manner before a committee, his attitude toward the committee, his under- standing of the responsibilities of the committee, his personal relations with committeemen, the way in which and the extent to which he presses his requests come to count for more than the scientific import- ance of his projects. This fact becomes of less importance, perhaps, when the requests have been reviewed by a budget official and have received his approval and when they secure his support before the ... . . . .. . ~ , committee; but even in that case, the personality of the scientist is important in determining the amount of the appropriation. The writer has come to the opinion that the scientists are neglecting an important practical duty in failing to secure greater publicity for the scientific work which they are carrying on. In the long run j the state will support research to the extent that the voters understand its importance; more narrowly, to the extent that legislators, governors, and men prominent in public life understand its importance. There is now more than ever a very heavy pressure on the state for expendi- tures which cannot be avoided; and on the other hand, a very insistent demand for a reduction in taxes. Scientific endeavor is not unlikely to be caught between the upper and nether millstone, unless it can satisfy the political authorities of the state of the value of its work. This need not be done with an undesirable display of scientific virtues nor in any spirit of arrogance, but rather by an honest presentation of the fundamental importance of science in the work of government and by making clear the increasing necessity for calling on science in ever greater measure to perform the tasks of the state. This is a duty which perhaps falls on other agencies and groups than the scientists themselves engaged in work for the state; but that it is a duty of first rate importance there can scarcely be doubt. Recent methods of handling budgets and making appropriations have raised the problem of elasticity in departmental and division funds. A highly segregated budget tends to destroy the discretion of the administrative officer in conducting his department, so that in order to permit a reasonable elasticity other devices must be employed. In some states the practice is to allow deficiencies to be incurred to be met by the succeeding legislature. The experience of Pennsylvania is a striking illustration of the financial difficulties that are likely to ensue. In other states transfers are allowed from one item to another, with varying degrees of central supervision. In other states, the departments are granted contingency funds with full discretion to use them for-any proper purpose. Finally the practice has developed of building up either departmental contingency funds or a single fund at
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IN STATE GOVERNMENTS 119 the disposal of the governor or of some central financial agency. The purpose of itemization is to secure a greater degree of legislative control and to ensure proper use of funds. While this purpose is attained, the resulting harm from a non-adjustable appropriation brings about evils which require relief by some one of the methods here described. Examination of a considerable number of states seems to indicate a tendency to cure the evil not by freeing the hands of the divisions but by setting up a general contingent fund at the dis- posal of the chief- executive. On grounds of easy adjustment of funds a single large contingency fund is preferable. On grounds of the power which control of such funds vests in chief executives some fear has been expressed. It is an open question for which no answer has been found in the course of this study as to what extent sympa- thetic consideration has been given to requests for contingent allot- ments from the funds of the chief executive, as compared with requests for other than scientific purposes. varies from bureau to bureau, depending in part upon the amount, and in part upon the character, of expenditures. Large institutions dealing with changing problems experience great need for contingent funds; and likewise the character of research is such that a good claim for such freedom can be sustained. In the interests of economy, how- ever, the writer sees no objection to providing contingent funds for the scientific bureaus by means of a departmental fund to which it will have access on the same terms as do other bureaus. The need for a contingent fund In the matter of travel allowances to attend conventions beyond the borders of a state, many of our commonwealths have a rather provin- cial attitude. From the point of view of attainment of scientific achievement the opportunity to attend scientific conferences of various sorts is, of course, indispensable. If a conference is held within the state, the views of the division or department as to attendance prevail. If the conference is in another state, however, the consent of the governor or the finance department is commonly required. So far as could be ascertained, no serious trouble has arisen on this point; but it is undoubtedly true that many requests for travel allowance are not made because a refusal is anticipated. Moreover, this sort of a. decision is not one which the chief executive of any state should be called upon to make.45 The sensible solution of the question would seem to be to allow the finance officer to fix the maximum amount allowed for travel, if it is not fixed in the appropriation act, and to allow the head of the division tat emnln~r the. film corned linen n~ he thinks most desirable. It may be noted in passing that in the case 46 See the article by Governor A. E. Smith, How We Ruin Our Governors, in National Municipal Review, Vol. X, p. 277. .. . . .
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120 FINANCIAL CONTROL OF RESEARCH of universities with which the writer is familiar there is a control on travel for university purposes, and in most cases universities do not undertake to pay the expenses of their faculties for attending scien- tific or professional meetings, unless, of course, they specifically represent the university. The writer has been impressed with the dangers inherent in the lack of continuity of state government. This danger increases pari passe with the integration of responsibility, and is the more serious where successive elections swing in favor of one party and then another. These tides of political success and failure sweep into the key offices of government, men who many times are inexperienced in the conduct of public affairs and who, once they get in touch with the work of the divisions over which- they preside, are too commonly replaced by others equally inexperienced. Thee present experiment in integrated and unified control of state administration cannot be productive of its expected results unless by law or by tradition the element of con- tinuity, which was much more characteristic of the old regime, can be retained. Scientific work above all requires persistence, steadiness, regular financial support, continuity in personnel, freedom from extraneous influences; all of which are threatened by an electoral and administrative system which may change the overhead control every two years. On the other hand, upon broad grounds of public policy the integra- tion of authority and the co-existence of long terms of office may necessitate the development of more adequate means of control, which in turn would open the way to the possibility of frequent changes. The solution of this paradox seems to come back to a constantly increasing care in the original selection of important public officials. The new regime in state government raises a problem in an acute form for every department, but especially perhaps for the departments engaged in professional, technical or scientific work. This problem is to secure and retain as financial supervisor a man of high ability, firmness combined with tact, and a vision of the wide range of state functions which will enable him to approach each department with understanding and a desire to cooperate with their plans so far as the general financial policy of the state may permit. In the long run this may prove to be the turning point of the whole plan. If the appointees are primarily politicians, concerned with jobs and elections, or pri- marily business men, intent upon a narrowly conceived program of tax reduction, or primarily bureaucrats desiring to wield power, it is certain that the advantages which may arise from central financial supervision will be largely nullified. It is not easy to see from what source the financial supervisors of the next decade are to be drawn.
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IN STATE GOVERNMENTS 121 They might properly comprise a compact professional group like the city managers, and like them develop an esprit de corps which would safeguard the system. They are more likely in the near future to be what they have been in the recent past, men of long experience in the ,' , , _ ~ auditing, accounting, or other services of the state, who are drafted for the new work because of their wide familiarity with the state administration. They have not commonly been men of broad training, although among their number have been men of high capacity. Their task is one of enormous difficulty, almost certain to stir up disagree- ments and ill-feeling at best; but the opportunity to render service to the state is equally great. From the point of- view of the scientific agencies, the danger is that even modest research programs may be squeezed out by an administrative official who is intent upon saving by elimination, rather than by ensuring value received for money spent. If the budget officials can be secured with an open mind on research programs and a fair understanding of the special conditions which research requires. this problem will disappear. _ _ 1, . . . ... . . _ . , · . . ~ . · ~ . ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 1 It has been soul that ~t a central noaro unctertaKes to censor one printing of scientific manuscripts, it ought to assume responsibility for selecting the research projects out of which the manuscripts arise. This responsibility obviously will not be assumed by supervising officials interested in finance; but the remark suggests that those who are interested in safeguarding the status of science in government might properly undertake to devise a scientific supervision of the choice of projects for consideration. An advisory board drawn from the field covered by a government laboratory, composed - of men technically qualified and appointed for long terms of years, might be able not only to suggest lines of inquiry but might prove to be ~ powerful buffer between~the laboratory and administrative officials inclined to push their powers to the limit. The writer believes that too little use has been made of the power which resides in organized bodies of scientists, not only to protect but to encourage the conduct of research in government. - State universities understand the value of the support of an organized alumni body; and there is equal expecta- tion that the support of organized scientists would mean as much to state scientific agencies. There is a profound respect for scientific achievement in the mind of the intelligent men who for the most part make up our legislative bodies; and this respect should be capitalized to ensure a proper degree of freedom for the state institution engaged in scientific activity. The Illinois Board of Natural Resources and Conservation illustrates to a certain degree the type of organization the writer has in mind, although it does not serve as a means for building up the interest and activity of organized scientific groups.
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122 FINANCIAL CONTROL OF RESEARCH :For this wider purpose a comprehensive state scientific council com- posed of affiliated scientific and engineering societies may be sug- gested. The functions of the council might properly consist in support- ing the scientific interests of the state government as other organiza- tions stand back of the special activities in which they are interested. Such support would be useful at the time when budgets were under consideration, as the council could send representatives to explain and defend the requests made for scientific investigation. It would be useful in linking up government research with the great body of organized scientists from among whom research workers are obtained. Such a council could make a very effective opposition to forms of central financial control which it felt to be harmful. It could guar- antee the continued preservation of scientific freedom from political interference. :Fundamentally it could educate people and public officials to a more complete understanding of the conditions under which research is most eDectively prosecuted. The writer found no evidence of hostility toward research expendi- tures either on the part of administrative officials or legislative mem- bers. In some cases research has rather definite promise of economic results the fruits of which are gathered by powerful classes in the community. Thus the various phases of agricultural investigation mean greater returns to the farming interests, which dominate the legislatures of the mid-western states. In other cases there is no immediate economic promise, but the hope of ultimate financial returns, as in the search for mineral resources carried on by geological surveys. No exact methods of measuring the relative success or failure of systems of financial control in relation to the conduct of scientific investigation present themselves. Some evidence can be secured by study of the financial history of institutions and agencies, and by comparison of one period with another; certain conclusions can be reached by conference with the men most directly concerned, but there is no method of inquiry which will segregate a method of finan- cial supervision and measure its influence alone. Personalities, inherited traditions, physical circumstances, the views of legislators, social inertia, all combine to produce a result in which the system of financial control is only one of the variables. The present methods of control in turn have been in operation for a relatively short period, and it is perhaps early to attempt to state any conclusions. We can watch an evolution, and gather evidence which will help to formulate ultimately the conditions under which scientific enterprise and the necessities of adequate control of public expenditures can be harmonized.
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