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I. Executive Summary

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Strategic Planning Document - Fundamental Science

I. Executive Summary

The federal investment in fundamental science serves two principal purposes: (1) developing a knowledge base that supports agency and national requirements for science and technology underpinning important areas of national policy, and (2) assuring a vital, regenerative pool of people, ideas, knowledge and tools to draw upon in addressing the scientific and technical challenges of the present and the future. The work and plans of the Committee on Fundamental Science Research (CFS) center on the second of these purposes, focusing on long-term investments that are efficient and effective in their use of current resources and in their connection with current challenges and opportunities.

Science in the National Interest, the recent Presidential statement of science policy, builds on a decade of public and private sector thinking about the role of science and technology to articulate a substantive set of challenging goals for the investment in fundamental science. At the same time, it paints a persuasive picture of the value of fundamental science in addressing aspects of many pressing policy issues in areas such as health, prosperity, national security, environmental responsibility, and improved quality of life. It provides the rationale for a national effort to attain the following goals:

  • Maintain leadership across the frontiers of scientific knowledge.
  • Enhance connections between fundamental research and national goals.
  • Stimulate partnerships that promote investments in fundamental science and engineering and effective use of physical, human, and financial resources.
  • Produce the finest scientists and engineers for the twenty-first century.
  • Raise scientific and technological literacy of all Americans.

CFS faces the following challenges:

  • establishing a government-wide mission for and approach to fundamental science; and

  • developing a cross-agency strategy for dealing with foundational issues that affect the broad research and development enterprise.

CFS must embrace these challenges within the context of agency missions and broad administration priorities, and develop a federated structure to facilitate interagency cooperation.

In the course of developing data on the FY 1996 Budget, CFS undertook an analysis of the level of funding for fundamental science, agencies' priorities for the immediate future, and how they describe their mission for fundamental science. In sum, the federal portfolio in fundamental science is on the order of $20 billion, approximately 27 percent of the total federal research and development effort. This is large relative to the portfolios being coordinated by other NSTC committees, and, because of the links to those portfolios, presents a complex web of interactions that must be addressed in developing an interagency approach to fundamental science.

Strengthening the federal investment for fundamental science in the near term must be accomplished in an environment of an overall federal budget for discretionary spending that is static or even declining. To sustain modest real growth over the next five years, consistent with the recommendations of Science in the National Interest, will require significant changes in the frameworks within which agencies make priority decisions. To make up ground lost since the FY 1993 base used in Science in the National Interest would entail wrenching decisions that give priority to enhancing long-term investments across the government.

CFS is committed to providing the framework for decision making and the cogent rationale that would make such decisions possible. It will encourage agencies to risk increasing their long-term investments, even at the cost of the short-term. And it will support the agencies in the interactions with the Congress necessary to implement the decisions.

Principles and guidelines for establishing priorities under this approach include investments in:

  • fundamental science research at the nation's colleges and universities;
  • merit review with peer evaluation;
  • areas consistent with a particular agency's overall mission and its role in fundamental science;
  • fundamental science tied to broad national goals through joint activity with interagency initiatives coordinated by other NSTC committees;
  • dedicated interagency research efforts where national goals require common tools, approaches or ideas from fundamental science;
  • a balanced portfolio for world leadership;
  • access to and use of academic and government facilities for research and education; and
  • advancing science, mathematics, and engineering education.

The coordinated approach planned by CFS will help the nation achieve an effective, accountable portfolio of investments in fundamental science that will keep the United States at the cutting edge of science and technology. Traditionally, federal agencies have set their goals and priorities in fundamental science independently. Current resource constraints require that we optimize the overall balance in the national portfolio of investments, while maintaining the independence of each agency's operation that has contributed so much to the quality of the total effort.

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Fundamental Science - Table of Contents

I. Executive Summary

II. Elements of the CFS Strategy

III. Current Federal Portfolio

IV. Implementation Plan

Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Appendix 3