U.S. science and technology under budget stress

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Abstract

A set of hearings was held a few weeks ago by the House Science and Technology Committee, Don Fuqua, chairman, during which White House science advisor George A. Keyworth II ‘reiterated the Reagan Administration's wisdom of the marketplace philosophy’ (Chemical and Engineering News, Dec. 14, 1981). National Academy of Sciences President Frank Press responded to Keyworth's continuing statements on the ‘hard choices’ ahead with a proposed ‘compact’ among the public, private and academic research sectors. Representatives of the science R & D community are hanging on every word released from the White House, hoping to find some solace from the picture of disastrous budget cuts that appears to be emerging in all sectors. The budget cuts, cumulative for fiscal years 1982 and 1983, do not, in notable examples, leave room for hard choices; dismantling of entire programs appears to be expected. Two examples are the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) planetary scientific program and the programs of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When NASA's program was recently described as ‘planetary science in extremis,’ the meaning intended was ‘near death,’ not ‘in the extreme’ (Science, Dec. 18, 1981). In the same light, Douglas M. Castle, former EPA director, defined ‘EPA under siege:’ ‘It's hard to find a rational explanation for [the 1983 fiscal year budget proposed by OMB] except that [the current EPA administrators] are, in fact, a wrecking crew’ (Environmental Science and Technology, December 1981). Meanwhile, the so-called ‘research universities’ in the United States are turning to more practical and applied avenues to secure funds for their R & D budgets. According to science policy analyst, Wil Lepkowski, ‘The practical goals of technology are fast swallowing academic science, and nothing seems likely to be the same again.’ (Chem. Eng. News, Nov. 23, 1981).

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