Dr. Moore observed that the conference had been full and informative, and he thanked each of the speakers and discussants for making their time and expertise available. Leaders in government, industry, and universities identified key future challenges in two of our most vital industries. The intellectual stimulation of Dan Goldin’s vision of the future inspired us all to plan today for the things we hope to accomplish 25 years from now. From Dan Goldin’s speech, and the presentations of many others, a number of important themes have figured prominently in the discussions of the past two days.
It is impossible to make progress in one branch of science while neglecting other branches of science. Scientific advance is an “interconnected whole” that must make broad progress on all fronts. This is not something that appears to be fully understood by some of the parties that fund research. There appears to be a natural constituency for biotechnology in Congress, given that everyone grows old, contracts diseases, and wants new remedies and treatments. In the physical sciences, the audience is less focused in Congress and there is a less vocal lobbying effort than with biotechnology. This imbalance should be addressed.
One point that was not raised prominently in the conference, Dr. Moore said, was that many of the challenges in biotechnology and computing are technical in nature, and not just about basic science. Disguising nanotechnology as nanoscience because the latter is easier to fund may be a useful short-term expedient. However, we are on the brink of developing some very exciting technolo-
gies, and we should be explicit in generating a constituency in the technology community that will actively support the necessary technical research.
We also learned that partnerships are not easy. The language and culture of the various disciplines do not mix easily. For example, it is clear that biology will increasingly rely on mathematics and computing in the coming years; both disciplines must make efforts to understand each other’s culture and languages.
Trends in Government Support for R&D
Dr. Moore said that he “was appalled” to see the dropping percentage of Gross National Product that is going to R&D in the past several years. The trend is not encouraging. The problem cannot be addressed overnight, but those of us who feel strongly about our technical future must address this trend. Government research is extremely important; the private sector is increasingly funding short-term R&D because it can capture the results of such research fairly easily. It is a legitimate function of government to fund the longer-term, fundamental science that is so vital to our economy and society.
The point was raised several times that high-performance computing capability is important for a variety of reasons, and that the government is the sole market for high-performance computing these days. Efforts to extend computing power must recognize that fact and take it into account. In the field of computing, it is unique that the government plays such a key role in terms of demand for sophisticated high-end products.
Intellectual property is another topic that will shape innovation in biotechnology and computing in the coming years. The legal regime that governs intellectual property will greatly affect the rate of progress, and policymakers face significant challenges in this arena. It is a policy field that evolves slowly; rapid change is difficult to implement. But intellectual property policy will have to be addressed to provide a climate in which innovators can capture value, and in which all participants are well served.
The steering committee on Government-Industry Partnerships for the Development of New Technologies is now faced with the task of writing a report that includes findings and recommendations based on the input from this conference. In laying the basis for the report, Dr. Moore thanked each of the speakers and discussants for making available their time and expertise for the conference, as well as everyone in the audience for their attentiveness and contributions. Finally, Dr. Moore thanked the staff of the STEP Board for making this conference as informative and enjoyable as it has been—especially Chuck Wessner, who directs the program on Government-Industry Partnerships, as well as John Horrigan and McAlister Clabaugh.