« PreviousContinue »
sciences, and their applications to engineering, medicine, agriculture, and other useful arts.
Thus our National Research Council differs fundamentally in several respects from the Advisory Councils for Scientific and Industrial Research recently established by the British, Australian, and Canadian Governments, though its general objects are similar to theirs. Those Councils are branches of the Government, with officers appointed by the party in power and thus subject to political influences and exigencies. The National Research Council is closely connected with the Government, through the charter of the Academy and the Executive Order issued by President Wilson on May 11, 1918, which provides for the coöperation of Government Departments, and for the appointment by the President of representatives of their scientific and technical bureaus to membership in the Research Council on the nomination of the National Academy of Sciences. The constitution of the Research Council is determined, however, by the National Academy, and this assures its scientific sound
Moreover, the scheme of organization adopted by the Academy provides that the several divisions of the Research Council shall be made up of nominees of leading national scientific and technical societies interested in research. This gives the Council a thoroughly representative character, and makes it an actual federation of research agencies. Thus it is peculiarly well fitted to secure the cordial coöperation of the numerous elements that must work in harmony, if extensive plans for coöperation in research are to be carried into effect.
Throughout the period of the war, the Research Council devoted all of its energies to the organization and conduct of research for military and industrial purposes. In undertaking the larger activities rendered possible under peace conditions, the Council recognizes that one of its chief functions is to promote a wider appreciation of the national importance of scientific and industrial research. It is probably true that this task is less difficult in the United States than in any other country. The interest of the American public in scientific progress is unquestioned, and many of our great corporations have long since demonstrated their appreciation of the practical value of research. Notable illustrations, which will be fully described in The Bulletin of the National Research Council are afforded by the work of the great research laboratories of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (Western Electric Company), the General Electric Company, the du Pont de Nemours Company, the Eastman Kodak Company, and the Westinghouse Company, to cite only a few outstanding examples. One • of these corporations spends as much as three million dollars annually
for research, and in all cases the resulting profits are so great that their laboratories and staffs of investigators are constantly expanding.
Parallel with this fast multiplying appreciation of research by industrial leaders, we find equally striking demonstrations that in other fields the importance of science and research have been widely felt. Tyndall, speaking in New York in 1873, at the conclusion of his very successful series of popular lectures on science, recognized both the opportunity and the need of that day:
It would be a great thing for this land of incalculable destinies to supplement its achievements in the industrial arts by those higher investigations from which our mastery over Nature and over industrial art itself has been derived.
The great popularizer of science set an excellent example by devoting the proceeds of his lecture tour to the establishment of traveling fellowships for American students. “The willingness of American citizens to throw their fortunes into the cause of public education," cited by Tyndall as even then “without a parallel in my experience”, has since led to the development of large universities, in many of which faculty members devote themselves to research to the full limit of their capacity. Heavily endowed research foundations have been established, and the research functions of Government bureaus have greatly increased. Thus the way has been cleared for new advances, which the unique conditions created by the war will certainly facilitate.
Optimistic as we may reasonably feel, however, in view of the progress already attained, we are in no danger of believing that our object has been already accomplished in any large degree. Many tendencies of the time indicate both the opportunity and the necessity for further effort. Not least of these is a widespread public preference for sensational discovery, even if based on little or no evidence, rather than for solid accomplishment of more sober sort. Pseudo-scientific journals, taken by thousands of enthusiastic amateurs, often feed their readers on the veriest nonsense in the guise of science. Charlatans offering fabulous wares are successful in securing appropriations from Congress. Such indications suffice to show the importance of rendering the sound results of scientific and industrial research more widely known, in language easily understood by all intelligent readers.
Again, we see many industries conducted on purely empirical lines, without the enormous advantages that scientific method would entail. The leaders of these industries are almost invariably ready to be convinced that their products could be improved and their profits increased by research, and the National Research Council is actively engaged in demonstrating the advisability of a general adoption of the research policy that has already proved so effective in many individual cases.
Finally, to mention here only one more direction in which effort must be made, we find those industries which have awakened to the importance of research, drawing from the universities and research foundations, by superior financial inducements, the men on whom we must depend for the fundamental contributions to knowledge from which industrial progress springs. Fortunately, such industrial leaders as Dr. J. J. Carty, vice-president of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, have strongly emphasized the absolute necessity of cultivating science for the sake of advancing knowledge. It is plain that the skilled investigators needed in rapidly increasing numbers to man the laboratories of industrial research must be developed by the universities and schools of technology. But it is also clear that this draft on the supply of competent research men must not seriously deplete the ranks of those who are advancing knowledge. The universities should have ample means to support research, and the industries, especially those that profit most from science, should aid them by establishing research fellowships, professorships, and adequately endowed laboratories. Dr. Carty emphasized this view in his presidential address to the Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1916:
By every means in our power, therefore, let us show our appreciation of pure science, and let us forward the work of the pure scientists, for they are the advance guard of civilization. They point the way which we must follow. Let us arouse the people of our country to the wonderful possibilities of scientific discovery and to the responsibility to support it which rests upon them, and I am sure they will respond generously and effectively.
The present Bulletin is the first of a series to be published by the National Research Council. It comprises the views of some of the members of the Advisory Committee of the Council on the national importance of scientific and industrial research. These statements are exceptionally significant, on account of the experience on which they are based. The Honorable Elihu Root, for many years Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, has been in close touch with research in many fields. In surveying its possibilities in their broadest aspects, he has recognized the importance of securing a higher degree of organization, and much more effective coöperation among investigators than they have ever enjoyed. A superficial view of the matter might suggest the conclusion that organized effort in science would hamper the individual investigator and hinder personal initiative. It is only necessary to examine coöperative researches now in progress in astronomy, geology, and other fields in order to appreciate that the effect of well planned coöperation is to stimulate the individual and to bring out his best and most original effort. The National Research Council is strongly opposed to all attempts at central control of research, but favors the initiation of coöperative undertakings, provided that they be so devised as to encourage individual initiative. Future numbers of the Bulletin will illustrate possibilities of this nature.
The other statements in this Bulletin have also been prepared by well-known men familiar, through long experience, with scientific and industrial research. In pointing out the benefits that will accrue to those industries that utilize research most freely, they base their conclusions on practical results, of which they have personal knowledge. Manufacturers who have not yet recognized research laboratories as necessary adjuncts of their business will do well to ponder their advice, and inquire into the methods and successes of industrial research. The National Research Council will do everything in its power to facilitate such inquiries, both by publication in the Bulletin of accounts of research laboratories of many descriptions and by its series of research exhibits, designed to illustrate in a striking and effective manner the latest discoveries and advances in science and technology. The first of these exhibits, soon to be opened, will be devoted to the wireless telephone, which will be demonstrated in working form, and illustrated as the gradual outgrowth of researches planned, for the most part, without reference to any other object than the advancement of knowledge.
1 See Hale, War Activities of the National Research Council, Proceedings of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, July, 1918.
2 See Third Annual Report of the National Research Council, transmitted to Congress in the Annual Report for 1918 of the National Academy of Sciences.
THE NEED FOR ORGANIZATION IN SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH*
BY ELIHU Root
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES, CARNEGIE INSTITUTION OF WASHINGTON
I have no justification for expressing views about scientific and industrial research except the sympathetic interest of an observer for many years at rather close range. One looking on comes to realize two things. One is the conquest of practical life by science; there seems to be no department of human activity in which the rule of thumb man has not come to realize that science which he formerly despised is useful beyond the scope of his own individual experience. The other is that science like charity should begin at home, and has done so very imperfectly. Science has been arranging, classifying, methodizing, simplifying everything except itself. It has made possible the tremendous modern development of the power of organization which has so multiplied the effective power of human effort as to make the differences from the past seem to be of kind rather than of degree. It has organized itself very imperfectly. Scientific men are only recently realizing that the principles which apply to success on a large scale in transportation and manufacture and general staff work apply to them; that the difference between a mob and an army does not depend upon occupation or purpose but upon human nature; that the effective power of a great number of scientific men may be increased by organization just as the effective power of a great number of laborers may be increased by military discipline.
*Washington, D. C., August, 1918.
This attitude follows naturally from the demand of true scientific work for individual concentration and isolation. The sequence, however, is not necessary or laudable. Your isolated and concentrated scientist must know what has gone before, or he will waste his life in doing what has already been done, or in repeating past failures. He must know something about what his contemporaries are trying to do, or he will waste his life in duplicating effort. The history of science is so vast and contemporary effort is so active that if he undertakes to acquire this knowledge by himself alone his life is largely wasted in doing that; his initiative and creative power are gone before he is ready to use them. Occasionally a man appears who has the instinct to reject the negligible. A very great mind goes directly to the decisive fact, the determining symptom, and can afford not to burden itself with a great mass of unimportant facts; but there are few such minds even among those capable of real scientific work. All other minds need to be guided away from the useless and towards the useful. That can be done only by the application of scientific method to science itself through the purely scientific process of organizing effort. It is a wearisome thing to think of the millions of facts that are being laboriously collected to no purpose whatever, and the thousands of tons of printed matter stored in basements never to be read-all the product of unorganized and undirected scientific spirit. Augustus De Morgan, denying the divinity of Francis Bacon, says “What