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Twenty-Third Annual AAAS Colloquium on S&T Policy

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Office of Science and Technology Policy

For Immediate Release April 29, 1998 
Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones
Acting Director, Office of Science& Technology Policy
Keynote Address to the
Twenty-Third Annual AAAS Colloquiumon S&T Policy
April 29, 1998


Thank you for that kind introduction. Itis truly a pleasure for me to be here today, speaking to the organizationthat gave me my start in public policy nearly thirteen years ago.


As I thought about my remarks this morning,I tried to think of an appropriate way to describe this particular pointin time. I wanted to view this time from two distinct vantage points—thescience and technology view, as well as the public policy view. What ishappening from both perspectives and how do we move forward from wherewe are?

Changing Our Thinking

Thomas Kuhn observed in his essay on theStructure of Scientific Revolutions that during changes in scientific thinking,time-honored, accepted ways of conceiving the world seem to suddenly giveway to others. When this happens, the world no longer looks the same.

Aristotle's analysis of motion, Ptolemy'scomputations of planetary position, or Newton's view of the universe, servedfor many generations to define the accepted understanding of the world.But with experimentation and exploration these time-honored beliefs gaveway to new laws, new theories and new ways in which we perceived our world.

In this century, we have seen so many differentadvances in science and these in turn have, in so many instances, changedhow we conceive of our world. Our concepts of who we are, where we areand the tools available to improve or destroy ourselves have changed dramatically.We split the atom and realized the prospect of an unlimited source of energy,but also the horror of unimaginable annihilation. We uncovered the fundamentalstructure of DNA and with it, revealed the blueprint for growth, changeand development of living things. We peered deep into the heavens and observedthat our home planet Earth spins in the midst of a rapidly expanding universe;and we have harnessed space and electromagnetism to communicate audio-visual,textual, and numerical information around the globe.

In our time, it is not only what we arelearning, but how quickly knowledge is expanding. And the rate of discoverycontinues at an extraordinary pace. During the past year, the headlinesof scientific and technological change have been staggering:

    • We have been able to isolate genes involvedin biological clocks of several organisms, from fruit flies to mammals;and we have seen an explosion of genomics, including analysis of wholegenomes of several microbes, plants and animals.
    • We witnessed on-line around the world thesuccessful mission of the Mars Pathfinder. This was our first return tothe red planet in over 20 years, collecting a wealth of information aboutthe terrain and chemical composition of our closest neighbor.
    • We have seen a liquid ocean beneath Europa'sicy surface. Detailed views by NASA's Galileo spacecraft strongly suggestthe possibility of liquid water—key to the chance that living organismsmight be found there.
    • We were able to capitalize on a decade ofresearch and investment in modeling and monitoring technologies to producethe first accurate forecast of the El Nino phenomenon. This was the firstaccurate prediction of the onset of a large-scale climate event.
If for each of these discoveries, we wereable to freeze time and take a snapshot of the state of affairs, we mightassemble a gallery of photographs that I would entitle "the edge of change."Key scientific discoveries throughout history have encompassed a particularflash of understanding--that insightful moment when Archimedes was in hisbathtub, for example, and realized that he was displacing water equivalentto his body's volume. The precise moment when the reality of the worlddawned on Archimedes is what I call the "edge of change."

Changes in the Budget Process

I believe that we are on that same edgeof change in our federal political and budget process. Historically, decision-makershave focused discretionary budgetary discussions on four or five key areasincluding: education, defense, crime and health care. Today, I believewe are seeing the emergence of a new player at the table—Science and Technology.For those of us close to science and technology and its policy issues,the fact that S&T belongs at the table is not a new or shocking discovery.We have understood the details of the S&T policy role from our owndisciplines and fields—it has been intuitive. Yet our intuition has notbeen widely shared with policymakers and voters. However, the growing understandingthat science and technology underpin our well-being and security—the wideningrole of science and technology in public policy, and the expanding audiencewho are now turning to science and technology to address the challengesof the day, represent a whole new wave of discovery… and we must seizethis moment.

Science and technology can no longer beviewed solely as a special interest represented by sometimes competingdisciplines, researchers and institutions. The impact of the sum of theadvances made possible by science and technology on our world is overwhelming:

    • The sum of progress in science and technologyon the individual lives of American citizens underpins their health, well-being,and quality of life;
    • The sum of progress on our national economyfrom new businesses (like biotech and infotech) is driving real growthand job creation;
    • And the sum of progress in science and technologyon foreign policy and security, from understanding biological weapons todigitizing the battlefield is redefining security. 
In the first days of their Administration,President Clinton and Vice President Gore recognized the overwhelming andfundamental nature of science and technology to our nation's prosperityand security; they recognized that we stood on the edge of change. TheAdministration fought to protect the nation's investment in science andtechnology through the difficult days of tough budget-balancing decisions.In addition to the balanced budget constraints, we also faced a period,not very long ago, where discussions on the Federal S&T budget weremarked by rancorous partisan debate. Now, support for investing in scienceand technology enjoys support from both sides of the aisle, all pointson the political compass, and from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

President's Budget

The President's leadership and commitmenthas paid off. He has submitted to Congress a balanced budget—three yearsahead of schedule. It is the first time in 30 years a budget has been submittedto Congress that is in balance and contains the largest civilian R&Ddollar request ever. The Administration's R&D investments cover therange of activities and disciplines that make up our S&T enterprise.Certainly, NIH receives a healthy share of the increases, but almost everytechnical agency sees growth over the next five years. The President'sbudget recognizes that it is essential to invest across the full spectrumof scientific and engineering fields. Biomedical progress depends not onlyon advances in chemistry and biology, but in physics, engineering, computing,and mathematics as well. That is why the President's investment strategyspans the broadest array of scientific disciplines and extends throughoutthe R&D spectrum—from basic to applied research, and from civilianto defense activities.

The Administration's proposed FY99 investmentsin research and development—to a total of $78.2 billion—boosts fundingover FY98 levels for: basic research by 8%; applied research by 5%; andUniversity-based research by 6%. The President calls for the largest increasesin the histories of two of our flagship research agencies, the NSF andNIH. Further, the budget continues the President's commitment to a 50/50split between civilian and defense R&D, moving civilian R&D upto 48% of the total.

The centerpiece of the President's R&Dproposal is the 21st Century Research Fund. The $31 billionResearch Fund is deficit-neutral. It provides for increases in most ofthe Federal government's civilian research programs—NIH, NSF, CDC, NASA,DOE, Commerce and USDA, among others—which will grow at an overall rateof 8% in FY99, and climb by 32% over the next five years.

Let me repeat; the Research Fund is deficitneutral. Every discretionary program increase in the Fund is fully paidfor through new revenue streams [e.g. tobacco legislation] and savingsin mandatory programs. Balancing our budget remains a priority for ournation and we must pay for choices we make. Our increased S&T investmentsare fully paid for — and we will fight for our full budget request.

Congressional Activity

In Congress, the discovery of science andtechnology as a broad national interest is beginning to gain some momentum.There are voices calling for a doubling of the R&D investment overten years. Yesterday I was at a Senate hearing where six senators cameforward to discuss the health and future of our national R&D enterprise.It was a bipartisan group—all of them want to move the R&D budget intoa central policy position, into the inner circle of political priorities.The Administration supports the sentiment of such efforts and we will workwith Congress to figure out how to turn this sentiment into a reality.We must realize that, in the center ring, we must deal with the politicaland budget realities facing us.

To be more specific, the Senate Resolutioncalling for a doubling of the budget in ten years has none of the spendingspecifics attached. The details, if you will, are much more concrete inthe transportation bill. A real threat to R&D funding increases isconcrete. And asphalt. And more highway demonstration projects. The transportationbill that is now in conference spends nearly $34 billion above the transportationproposal in the President's budget. It has the potential of crowding outthe R&D budget. We may find ourselves looking straight into the eyesof last summer's budget numbers that, in the wake of the Balanced BudgetAgreement, threatened to come in lower than FY98 proposed or enacted. Infact, depending on how Congress decides to pay for the Transportation bill,we could be looking at significant reductions—let us not kid ourselves—avery large transportation bill will pass in the very near future.But Congress should not lose sight of the importance of R&D to thecountry—and we must be a strong voice ensuring that this point is made.


When I started these comments, I raisedan important question - - where do we go from here? On the edge of change,how do we make sure we leap forward and not fall backwards… how do we avoidgetting stuck in cement? The moment of discovery is always a vulnerableone as the new way of thinking challenges the old, and room must be madeat the table. If Science and Technology is to be considered a dominantcategory in our national budget process, we—policy makers, scientists,engineers, and citizens—must provide the additional energy necessary forrealizing this change.

Can we make this investment leap? I cananswer for the Administration. The President has. And we will fight forthis budget and his increased investments in R&D.

Can the political process in Congress maintainand nurture the growing bipartisan interest to put science and technologyfront and center? Can the numbers grow from six Senators who champion scienceand technology broadly to 60?

Can the public's increasing interest inscience and technology be transformed into a constituency that supportsa sustained and strong science and technology investment?

These are questions that challenge allof us in this room to do more. Your instincts and intuition on scienceand technology have been right on—science and technology must move intothe larger political world and take its rightful seat in the national debate.The President and Vice President support this move. We hear similar supportin Congress. The edge of change is before us. Let's seize the moment now.

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