Federal role in science will grow, NSF Director predicts


  • Lynn Teo Simarski


Walter Massey, director of the National Science Foundation, recently called for a fundamental reassessment of the relationship between the federal government and research institutions. On January 15, Massey, now in his ninth month at NSF, described great changes in the government-university “partnership” since the “golden age” of the 1960s. Speaking in Washington, D.C. at a seminar of George Washington University's Center for International Science and Technology Policy, he predicted that his own term at the foundation would not be “business as usual.”

Science and technology have shifted from being a peripheral concern of the government to a central policy issue, Massey said. The United States now sees science as too important to leave its agenda for scientists to set themselves. In response, the federal government is launching the initiatives of the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology. Some of last year's FCCSET budget initiatives, spanning a number of federal agencies, dealt with math and science education, global change, and high-performance computing. Such programs “are research agenda put forth from the federal side—they are not things put forth from the [research] community,” Massey pointed out.