« PreviousContinue »
research. The point is that we must learn to decouple our plans for the support of research in universities from enrollment factors.
Mr. Brown. Dr. Atkinson, doesn't this lead to the conclusion that you may have to decouple support of research not only from the level of faculty and students in universities, but maybe even from universities themselves? There is nothing in the act which requires that funds be directed solely to universities.
You have programs directed at other than university performers. Does this not lead to the possibility that in the need to strengthen all of research, we might not look for other performers or other modes of performing research?
Dr. ATKINSON. Mr. Brown, that is certainly true. There are a number of options. I discussed one last weekend with a group at the University of California at Berkeley: perhaps 300 institutes would be located at universities. Staff members could have careers in the institutes without being tied to tenure positions, and they could have close interaction with the universities, faculties. The institutes, even though located at universities, could provide scientific career opportunities decoupled from teaching tenure.
This is just one of the many schemes that we must examine during the next 20 years.
Mr. Brown. The Organic Act of the Foundation refers to strengthening research and education, including independent research by individuals. Now, that can probably be construed in different ways, but does the Foundation have an interpretation of that phrase "independent research by individuals," or do you just play it by ear?
Dr. ATKINSON. Simply put, we play it by ear. We accept proposals from individuals and examine them in the same framework as we do all other proposals.
I am sure there are examples of awards to individuals. I don't have the records, but there is nothing to prevent an individual from applying to the Foundation.
Mr. Brown. Could you just for the record supply us with a cursory indication—not an exhaustive one—of NSF's support for research by individuals outside of that normal university setting?
Dr. ATKINSON. We would be glad to Mr. Brown. [The information follows:]
RESEARCH AWARDS TO INDIVIDUALS During the past four fiscal years, the National Science Foundation has awarded research grants to a total of 11 scientists working outside institutional laboratories as follows: fiscal year 1980 to date, three; fiscal year 1979, three; fiscal year 1978, two; and fiscal year 1977, three.
These awards to individual scientists are limited by design to special cases ; for example, to well-established older scientists who no longer affiliate with institutions but who still do highly rated research or to high school teachers with Ph.D. degrees whose work is prominent in particular fields.
As a matter of fact, however, almost all of the Foundation's budget goes to support the research of individual scientists or to provide the research facilities they need to carry out their projects. This is true because nearly all research scientists today affiliate with an institution-a university, a medical school, an industrial laboratory, or a non-profit group.
The motivation of affiliated scientists is partly economic and partly professional. First, the cost of facilities and equipment today is too great; not many scientists are financially able to conduct research in their own laboratories. Second, many research scientists today also are teachers; for these scientists, a university, a medical school, or a non-profit institute is a logical affiliation.
These affiliations provide advantages to both the Foundation and the scientists. The institutions with which the scientists are affiliated generally are responsible for the bookkeeping and accounting of the grant funds. Consequently, scientists are freed of some paper work; the Foundation benefits from uniform reporting and accounting of Federal tax dollars.
Mr. Brown. You know, this general subject came to my attention first several years ago, 2 or 3 years ago, when this group of young astronomers were unable to find jobs and were purported to have engaged in a process of setting up their own observatory in northern California.
I haven't followed this, but I was touched at the time by the fact that they couldn't find university jobs and yet were so devoted to their discipline that they were willing to undertake some sacrifices to continue with a career.
That may become more common than we have seen in the past in university positions. Teaching or research positions both are in short supply and we have an oversupply of dedicated and competent scientists who would like to continue with their work.
Hence, the question about whether or not the Foundation might be able to be flexible enough to accommodate them in this kind of a situation.
Dr. ATKINSON. I think the answer is yes, NSF will be flexible enough. There must be considerable re-examination of these issues during the next 20 years,
Mr. Brown. You have in the budget request, I understand, $14,250,000 to upgrade university research laboratories. I presume this is in response to the growing awareness of the equipment needs in the laboratories and related types of things.
Could you just discuss this briefly to indicate what that's in response to, what evidence of need do you have and specifically—how will that program be applied?
Dr. ATKINSON. NSF has raised this issue frequently in the past with respect to instrumentation and equipment; we suggested that not only instrumentation and equipment were needed, but also the renovation of laboratory spaces.
Last year, Secretary Califano called attention to this need for support of research facilities in universities. The subsequent review of the HEW budget led to the initiative this year. I'd like to provide for the record an estimate-admittedly approximate-for this type of program. It is based, in part, on the Califano testimony.
I should tell you that while this initiative is a small item in the fiscal year 1981 budget, our estimate of the need leads us to expect that the program will grow over time. The needs are simply that great. We have designed the program with the improvement of scientific research facilities at universities in mind. Placing the program in the National Science Foundation, as opposed to the Department of Education, emphasizes the support of facilities for research rather than educational purposes.
[The material for the record is as follows:]
ESTIMATE OF NEED FOR NEW EQUIPMENT, RENOVATION OF FACILITIES Serious deficiencies in research facilities at the Nation's universities are the result of the convergence of several factors, none of which is under institutional control.
63-392 0 - 80 - 3
A fundamental fact is that many research facilities were built some twenty or more years ago. As a result, they are afflicted not only with aging and the need for more frequent and major maintenance, but they suffer from obsolescence resulting from the specialized environmental demands of novel and sophisticated experimental apparatus. The situation is made more difficult by a greater-than-average rate of increase of costs of maintenance and renovation. Moreover, added on to these are the appreciable costs associated with new Federal requirements in the areas of occupational safety and health, the handling of dangerous biological, chemical and radiological materials, limitations on the disposal of potentially dangerous wastes, and the improvement of animal care facilities.
In thinking about the extent of need, one essential consideration is that over the period 1965–76, Federal support for research and development plant-that is, facilities—dropped by approximately 81%, not including the effects of inflation. As precise data do not exist, it is possible to make only rough estimates of the current need. A comparison of two sources leads to a rough validity check.
In the 1977 report Research Universities and the National Interest, the presidents of 15 major research universities estimate that about $150 million will be required annually over a period of several years for the renovation of facilities; an additional $100 m/year is said to be needed for reducing equipment backlogs. Preliminary results of a second more recent survey of nine representative research universities which account for approximately 15 percent of Federally funded R&D, indicate that there is a combined unmet facilities-equipment need of some $225 m/year that has accrued to them over the past 3-5 years. Using the 1977 facilities/(equipment+facilities) ratio, leads to an estimate of $225 m/year for facilities needs at the Nation's research universities. Thus, it is fair to use $200 m/year as a rough measure of the need.
Mr. Brown. Mr. Hollenbeck, do you have any questions?
I would like, with consent, to insert some brief opening remarks in the record.
Mr. Brown. By all means.
OPENING REMARKS OF HON. HAROLD C. HOLLENBECK
Mr. Chairman, once again I join with you in saying what a pleasure it is to welcome the representatives of the National Science Foundation here and to be reminded, as we hear the testimony, of the tremendous and truly inspiring reach of man's mind in so many fields of science. Consider that in the last year we have seen the first experimental evidence of gravity waves predicted over 60 years ago by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Their existence may finally unravel a unifying theory connecting the most mysterious force of all, gravity, to all the others. On the other hand, in recent weeks, we have learned of the first laboratory production of interferon, a protein which has potential for providing a virus equivalent to the use of antibiotics for bacterial diseases. When we consider further that new knowledge about the circadian rhythms of fiddler crabs provides us with understanding of the problems of jet lag in pilots, it is truly staggering. I find myself once again slightly in awe of the reach of man's mind from the very smallest corners to the farthest reaches of the universe. A great society will not be remembered solely by its material consumption ; indeed, it my be destroyed by excess, but it will be remembered for the ideas. the great designs, the great buildings, the great works which shape, direct and somehow give significance to man's life in the midst of vast empty cosmic spaces. I say this to indicate how fascinating I find science and to say that I hope our Nation will continue to support basic research very strongly.
On the other hand, that does not also mean that we will write a blank check for every bit of idle curiosity that comes along. The Nation does have limited resources, and we must use them wisely. Thus, I do not want to see our ability to develop a broad and strong program sacrificed by excessive concentration in a few areas. I have great reservations, for instance, about the proposal to convert the Glomar Explorer into a deep-sea drilling ship. As a recent article in Science magazine makes clear, new developments in drilling technology may per
mit us to obtain a very substantial proportion of the proposed findings through an adaptation of the current Glomar Challenger drilling ship. I think it might be a very grave mistake in this situation for us to terminate the Challenger program in favor of the vastly more expensive Glomar Explorer program. This is not to say, and I repeat, that the science that could grow out of the proposed Explorer drilling would not be interesting. Indeed, it may be fundamental to the advance of geological science and to understanding of the process of hydrocarbon and mineral formation to understand how the oceans form at their very earliest stages where drilling is proposed.
But I am not convinced that the time has come for this project. This is especially true when there are areas such as the astronomy and the social sciences where the funding levels do not even equal the rate of inflation. I think that is a great mistake. We cannot solve the world's problems and we cannot understand the world at large solely in terms of hardware. I should hope that Three Mile Island and the DC-9 disaster and a host of other technological failures would have taught us that lesson. If it hasn't taught us that then we'd better support more social science to understand the reasons why we haven't learned it!
Mr. Chairman, I have talked long enough. I look forward to these hearings. I would like, with your permission, to insert into the record, the copy of the Science article on the Glomar Explorer to which I referred earlier and I trust that we will keep a critical eye on the budgetary priorities of the Science Foundation. We should encourage them to come on with a stronger program in the future. I sometimes get the feeling that the biggest budget cutter in science is the National Science Foundation and the Administration itself, not the Congress although we are commonly blamed.
With those remarks, I will end and I look forward to hearing our testimony over the coming days and weeks.
(From Science, vol. 207. Feb. 8, 1980) Explorer: CAN OIL AND SCIENCE Mix?
AN AMBITIOUS NEW DEEP-SEA DRILLING PROGRAM MAY PRODUCE A PARTNERSITIP
BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND THE OIL INDUSTRY
Earth scientists have been delighted with the performance of the deep-sea drilling ship Glomar Challenger over the past 10 years, but many would like to see her replaced by the bigger and even better Glomar Erplorer. Unable to fund the Explorer alone, the federal government has turned to the oil industry for help. As discussion about a partnership continue, both science and industry are wondering if it would all be worthwhile.
As originally proposed by the scientific deep-sea drilling community (Science, 16 June 1978, p. 1254) Explorer, the ex-CIA submarine salvage ship would drill farther into ocean sediment and crust in deeper water than any ship afloat. Because it could not be restricted to a reas with no oil or gas potential, as Challenger is, Explorer could also probe the thick sediments of the continental margins. Erplorer would drill fewer but deeper holes than (hallenger on both sides of the Atlantic, in the Pacific, and near Antarctica. Ideally, Challenger would overlop Esplorcr for several years as they each pursue drilling targets especially suited to their capabilities.
This ambitious, balanced proposal received strong support from two National Science Foundation (NSF) committees—one an ad hoc scientific advisory group and the other a blue-ribbon committee of scientists and nonscientists. Both committees concluded that between the scientific studies and the assessment of the oil and gas potential off the U.S. coast the program was fully justified. They also agreed that industry should have a minor role, if any, in the project. The only dissenting voice was raised by a National Research Council study committee that suggested that broadly based studies of the ocean margins be carried out before expensive drilling.
Despite widely acclaimed justifications for the Explorer program, none of the expected financial backers have come forward. Foreign participants, who have provided one-third of the funding for the Challenger program, have offered no support. The Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior, which were expected to take significant roles, have declined to participate as major funding agencies.
Because NSF could not shoulder such a burden alone, Frank Press, director of the President's Office of Science and Technology Poilcy (OSTP), approached 27 oil companies with an offer to join the program. At a meeting in Houston in early December, academic earth scientists presented a proposal to their oil industry counterparts that the academics thought offered a reasonable return for industry-two-thirds of the drilling time in return for covering 50 percent of the costs. Under this plan, Erplorer would spend its first 2 years in the Pacific drilling several types of holes of interest solely to academic scientists, and then it would come around to the U.S. Atlantic coast for 4 years to drill holes of interest to both the universities and industry.
Outside of OSTP and NSF, it is widely believed that after the Houston meeting OSTP, at the behest of the oil companies, eliminated the Pacific drilling from the program. Peter Wilkness, drilling program manager at NSF, maintains that the abbreviated program was only a temporary expedient, not a serious proposal. It was born out of a need, according to Wilkness, to contain rapidly inflating costs in the offshore drilling business. Shortly, a reevaluation of scientific objectives in light of the latest cost estimates will redress the apparent imbalance, he says.
Whatever the case was, the response from academic scientists was uniformly critical. “Basically, we said, 'This is ridiculous,'” recalls James Hays of LamontDoherty Geological Observatory. The balanced approach that justified the cost of the scientific program seemed to have been abandoned in favor of looking for oil. Because Atlantic margin drilling would be the slowest, most complicated type for Explorer, only one or two deep holes could be completed each year at a cost of about $60 million per year. By comparison, Challenger drills 25 or more shallower holes per year for $20 million.
Doubts about the scientific return per dollar for a curtailed Explorer program have been further stirred by the recent revitalization of the Challenger program. In addition to new means of analyzing the geologic record and performing experiments within a drill hole, a new coring technique (the hydraulic piston corer) has recovered exceptionally well-preserved cores for the study of the ancient ocean and climate. But such Challenger drilling has a brief future if Explorer gets the go-ahead.
Now, NSF is looking for a middle ground that will suit everyone. "Who's in the program will obviously shape its content," says Wilkness, “but this is a basic research program; science is the guiding factor.” The draft agreement being discussed with industry states specifically that no one is looking for oil or gas and that no likely reservoirs will be drilled. The other major premise, according to Wilkness, is that one of the new drilling objectives, Atlantic-type ocean margins, proposed by the scientific community "coincides with the interests of private industry" and will be the primary objective in any Explorer drilling program. The other three major scientific objectives (drilling into the ocean crust, drilling in the vicinity of deep-sea trenches, and recovering clear geologic records from sediments) will also be a part of the program, Wilkness says, but the extent of their role has not been determined yet.
Academic scientists are not the only ones that are a bit leery of Explorer. "Press (of OSTP) is trying to walk a fine line to gain a marriage of objectives," a prominent oil company executive says, “but learning how the earth works and finding oil and gas efficiently are objectives that are extremely difficult if not impossible to marry." Consortia of oil companies have entered into agreements with the federal government to drill test wells for the sole purpose of gathering geologic data, but those data are not made public until the participating companies have bid on leases to drill for oil and gas nearby. Because industry drill ships are capable of drilling on the continental shelf and slope (the steep edge of the shelf), the oil companies have made it clear that any government evaluation of oil and gas potential in the Atlantic will be done below a depth of 1800 meters, that is, on the continental rise. Although such a preliminary evaluation would be of some interest to industry, it would appear content to first edge out onto the slope, as it is now doing, and evaluate the prospects of the rise from there.
That part of the oil industry has shown any interest at all in Explorer is indicative of other pressures felt by the oil companies. Although not of one mind on the question, many companies feel that it would be imprudent to refuse an offer to help evaluate the country's energy reserves, however costly and far-off their utilization may be. Although new drilling technology may be developed and