John H. Gibbons
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
Stresses on Research and Education at
Colleges and Universities: Phase II
Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable
National Academy of Sciences
February 26, 1997
Thank you. I am pleased to be with you today and, first of
all, to bring a message from the President of the United States.
Warm greetings to everyone gathered at the National Academy
of Sciences to discuss an issue of utmost importance to the future
of our nation: the continued vitality of America's research colleges
We live in a time of enormous possibility. We have an
unprecedented opportunity to shape the Information Age, to lead
the global economy, to develop new life-enhancing technology, and to
create jobs for the work force of the next century. Our passion for
learning and our sense of discovery have always driven this nation
forward, and, if we are to make the most of this historic moment,
we must renew our national commitment to education, to learning,
and to research.
America's colleges and universities have, for decades, produced
the world's finest engineers and scientists and have been a principal
source of new knowledge and scientific discovery. Today, we still
look to our academic institutions for help in addressing our nation's
major challenges -- fighting disease, improving the environment,
protecting our national security, and sustaining our economic growth.
But, if we are to ensure the future vitality of these institutions,
we must work together -- federal and state governments, the
university community, and private industry -- to make the
far-sighted investments in education and research that will enable
us to master this moment of change and build a stronger America for
I commend all of you for your dedication and leadership in
this endeavor. By striving to revitalize the role of America's
colleges and universities in scientific enterprise and to strengthen
the foundations of support of this role, you are helping to create
a brighter future for us all.
Best wishes for a productive meeting.
It is signed by President Bill Clinton.
One of the overarching themes of the Clinton Administration's
support for science and technology is maintaining leadership across
the frontiers of science. The Administration views S&T leadership
as crucial to improving health care, agriculture, environmental
management, national security, and economic prosperity. Key to
maintaining this leadership is support for our nation's research
colleges and universities. But they cannot do it alone. That is
why the GUIR Roundtable was created to foster dialogue among
partners, to share lessons learned, and to illuminate pathways to
solutions either not seen or not yet taken.
While focusing on stresses on research and education, I would
like to emphasize in my remarks the value of dialogue, learning
across sectors, and the need to glimpse new solutions to the
challenges that confront colleges and universities, and indeed the
America's colleges and universities are unmatched in their
capacity to provide advanced education in science and engineering and
to enrich it through cutting edge research. The tight link between
research and education has been fostered by the federal government
for over half a century and supported through a robust bipartisan
commitment. The results of this support have been absolutely
remarkable. The expression of scientific research in technological
innovation has accounted for a major part of our economic growth,
has underpinned our national security, and has promoted our ability
to understand, prevent and treat disease, and alleviate environmental problems.
The promise of science and technology is far from exhausted,
but will be realized only through continued strengthening of our
world-class scientific enterprise. The bedrock of that enterprise is
our system of research colleges and universities. Therefore, it is
important that the partnership that exists among our academic research institutions, the private sector, the federal and state governments be nurtured and periodically examined, especially at a time when stresses
can inhibit bold thinking and limit our reach or effectiveness.
Of course, there is a corollary. The heightened importance in
the public's mind of research and education, as keys to both national strength and individual well-being, brings with it heightened demand
by the public and elected officials for measures of the health, the efficiency, and societal contributions of academe. Their opinions
will be shaped by factors that extend well beyond research and education
per se. But they are intimately tied to what colleges and universities
are expected to do: expand knowledge and anticipate the skills their graduates will need to add productively to the nation's workforce,
economic well-being, and leadership in the world. These goals create
a forum for dialogue that must cross disciplines, sectors, and geographic boundaries.
The heightened demand by the public for performance, and the
public expectations that tend to outpace it, should be welcomed. They
are indicative of society's appreciation for the role of higher education
in the knowledge age and for the solutions that academe, in partnership
with industry and government, can provide.
A Time of Significant Stress
Despite the historic accomplishments of our university system,
we are in a time of great and complex stress -- stress caused by
significant changes in our research and education environment and in
our nation. With the end of the Cold War, with the bipartisan
recognition of the imperative to cut deficit spending and the necessity
to balance the budget, with new demands for accountability in how
federal funds are spent. And with the ever-increasing diversity of
our student population, old assumptions and boundary conditions are
no longer effective. Ironically, these changes, many of which are
viewed as limiting our research and education potential, are occurring
at a time when we see the brightest future for scientific advances and
how those advances can serve the pursuit of national goals. This
seeming disconnect between exciting opportunity and sobering
constraints must be understood -- and addressed.
Clearly, one of the major challenges associated with balancing
the federal budget by the year 2002 is achieving that goal while
maintaining our nation's leadership in science and technology (S&T).
The constraints on federal research funding are driven by the need
to eliminate the budget deficit, which grew enormously during the 1980s
and stifles investment today. This situation clearly affects the level
of research support for universities, about 60% of which comes from the federal government. In the face of austerity in discretionary funding:
For five years, we've protected research and higher education against
cuts (the dilemma of the "discretionary" program budget).
In preparing its FY1998 budget, the Administration formulated a budget
projection through FY2002 that protects funding levels for health
research at NIH, fundamental research at NSF, and DOE's and NASA's
science programs, along with the Administration's multi-agency S&T
Both basic and applied research budgets increase steadily during this
period by about 5% over FY1998.
The overall reduction in R&D funding by FY2002 stems from a planned 7%
decrease in development activities, especially those related to defense
These projections are consistent with the President's commitment
to balance the budget by FY2002 and satisfy discretionary funding caps.
I am very pleased that the projections define a base funding level
that is both realistic and achievable to serve as useful planning
figures for each agency. I certainly expect that some increases --
including those required to launch exciting new initiatives -- will
be realized each year, at the time that year's budget request is
prepared and submitted to Congress. The bottom line, thanks to
the President's priorities and our favorable economic status, is
that the FY1998 budget request for science and technology is
substantially higher than we projected it would be a year ago.
In the FY98 budget request, we continue to promote the growth
of programs that benefit basic research and therefore universities.
Overall, programs that support university scientists did quite well:
NSF and NIH would each be increased by 3%;
Basic research funded by DOE is proposed for a 4.6% increase above FY97
funding levels (remember that previous out year projections had DOE
programs sharply decreasing);
The peer-review competitive grant programs at both the USDA (the NRI
program) and EPA (the STAR program) are up 38% and 21%, respectively;
DOD basic research in the 6.1 account is up by almost 8%; and
Science research at NASA is up 3%, including a projected 7% increase in
How stresses on research affect the climate and character of
advanced education is the business of both colleges and universities --
the producers -- and of industry -- a prime consumer. One of the ten elements of the President's education plan is to "open the doors of
college to all who work hard and make the grade, and make the 13th
and 14th years of education as universal as high school." To help us
meet this objective, the President has proposed:
- the HOPE scholarship, a $1,500 tax credit for college tuition,
which should be enough to pay for a typical community college tuition;
- a $10,000 tax deduction for any tuition after high school;
- an expanded IRA to allow families to save tax-free for college; and
- the largest increase in 20 years in Pell Grants for deserving students.
While participation in higher education is sought as a key
to a robust U.S. workforce, the form of that participation is
changing. The information revolution, while creating new opportunities through technology, also is transforming the way colleges and
universities accomplish their education mission. Access to
university programs is no longer limited by geography or the
availability of classroom space. Improvements in the Internet
and networking, for example, open new possibilities for distance
learning that challenge our traditional views of the resident campus
and the clientele it serves. These developments not only expand
greatly student and public access to academic life, but also create
new pressures on what faculty teach, how they are rewarded, and what constitutes scholarship and good citizenship on campus and in
In addition to increasing access to higher education, the
President has proposed an aggressive system of national standards in
reading and mathematics for grades K through 12. The results of
the Third International Math and Science Study, TIMSS, clearly
demonstrated the need for our students to improve their overall math
and science skills relative to other nations.
While we were not at the bottom, our students only performed average compared
to the other 40 participating nations. Average scores will not ensure our
nation's future leadership in math, science, and technology, and will not
ensure future economic prosperity. We must do better.
I dwell on K-12 education because our nation's colleges and universities
have a key role to play in improving the performance of our K-12 students in
math and science. Such improvements would clearly lower the stress on
colleges and universities, too! The President's call for a voluntary national
eighth grade mathematics exam is a way of mobilizing the resources of local
communities to help schools and districts to identify the conditions and
practices that improve academic achievement in all subjects. What better
resource for improving science and math literacy and influencing careers than
institutions of higher education? In various ways, faculty can help fortify
teaching and learning in a classroom that is based on rigorous content
standards such as those developed for science by NAS. Combined with high
expectations for all students and internationally-benchmarked performance,
standards-based instruction can become the norm in U.S. classrooms.
Universities, business, and industry all gain through the superior preparation of students and workers. Working together, we can reduce this form of stress.
Specifically, colleges and universities can help students advance toward
excellence in at least three ways. First, how we teach our future teachers is of paramount importance. We need a stronger partnership between colleges of education and colleges of science and engineering. Future teachers cannot
build on students' natural curiosity about the physical world without first
awakening their own, asking questions and developing an appreciation for
experimentation, systematic observation, probability, and the making of
inferences. Such "literacy" in the methods of inquiry as well as textbook
answers is a prerequisite for teaching. If teachers are not equipped -- in
content areas, in technology, and in hands-on, inquiry-based pedagogy -- their students (and our next generation workforce) will suffer. New teachers lacking preparation in standards-based instruction will also add to the costs of local professional dev
elopment. Why certify teachers who are not state-of-the-art? Why add to the burden of retooling and retraining a veteran teacher workforce? These questions of investment in human resources are best addressed during study toward the baccalaureate. Col
leges and universities
can exercise quality control over what new teachers are trained to know and
Second, higher education is best positioned to increase the knowledge
base on "what works" through research and evaluation of models and practices,
and to suggest how standards-based classrooms can better utilize technology
and sustain high performance in mathematics and science by all students.
Through NSF's Systemic Initiatives and the DoED's Goals 2000 program, states
and districts are now changing management structures and teaching modes to
raise academic performance. We must learn from these experiments in real
time. Colleges and universities must be reliable partners of school districts
and their teachers, as many companies have been, if the latest research in
science and technology is to be successfully adapted to the K-12 classroom.
Higher education faculty are human resources for schools and communities.
Tapping -- electronically or otherwise -- the diversity of disciplines and
cultures among them puts a human face on science. It also increases the
potential for mentoring students, as industry programs have long demonstrated.
Third, higher education is often the sector for drawing on talent in the
national interest. The President has enlisted student volunteers from over 60
colleges and universities to serve as tutors in the "America Reads" program.
To help all students perform to world-class standards in mathematics, a pool
of algebra and geometry tutors could likewise volunteer in schools and
community-based organizations, after school and on weekends, to augment
classroom instruction and enrich mathematics teaching and learning by the
eighth grade. Such an initiative, which higher education could organize and
run in collaboration with industry, is citizenship in the purest sense of
sharing knowledge and expanding options. We know that such interactions
during the impressionable middle-schools years can make a big difference. The
President has established annual awards for mentoring, which is especially
important for under represented minority students studying math, science, and
engineering both in K-12 and college. I solicit your commitment to do more
in partnership with K-12 schools and students nation-wide.
It is in the mutual interest of the producers and consumers of new
graduates to ensure that talent is drawn from all segments of the population,
and that their mix of skills and knowledge is well-matched to the job
opportunities of the 21st century. This is neither easy nor readily
predictable. It is stressful. But colleges and universities are adept at
tackling hard problems and forging new solutions, mindful -- at least some of
the time -- that "the key to the future is to forget past successes."
It is often said that what were once virtues are now necessities. The
Administration through the Vice President's work with the National Performance Review has committed to making government work better, cost less, and impose less of a burden on our citizens and institutions. The common sense approach
that we're taking to government means that:
government focuses on results, instead of burying us in rules and
punishing those who don't comply;
government recognizes that its customers come first; and
the people get their money's worth that government works constantly to
be better, faster, and cheaper while delivering quality services.
Despite a litany of progress, we need to do more. Inefficient and
overly bureaucratic regulations continue to erode the buying power of scarce
federal resources. I believe that the regulatory arena, however complex, is
ripe for reform. Unfortunately, the legal and bureaucratic structures that
are in place to enforce many of these regulations have multiple constituencies
and purposes. For example, should EPA regulate the relatively small amounts
of hazardous wastes generated by a university labs the same way it regulates
waste generated by industry? Balancing the statutory requirements, regulatory
requirements, and other directives and orders requires careful attention so
that the federal side of the partnership doesn't smother the university side.
We must use common sense to identify and change those regulatory constraints
that are redundant, not science-based, or erode federal-university
For academic institutions conducting government-sponsored research, no
issue raises more hackles than "OMB Circular A-21." This circular articulates
the financial terms of the long-standing partnership between universities and
the Federal Government for the support of research. Just as the overall
partnership must be dynamic to maintain its vitality in the face of changing
circumstances, the guidelines in A-21 must also change periodically to reflect
evolving responsibilities, scientific practice, technology, the laws of
Congress, and changes in the financial environment, human resources, and the
physical research infrastructure.
Over the past five years, we have made some significant changes to
Circular A-21. However, I know that from the universities' perspective not all
of those changes have been for the better. We are trying to balance competing
interests: the need to maximize the impact of our federal research dollars
with the need to ensure appropriate levels of fiscal accountability.
Because Federal regulations can have a profound effect on the efficiency
and effectiveness of academic institutions and researchers, we have been
working for several years with Federal agencies, academic organizations, and
the Federal Demonstration Partnership to identify further regulatory reforms
that can ease the burden. This process of progressive regulatory reform will
only work if you -- our university partners -- continue to implement cost
containment measures and monitor how your institutions fulfill the redefined
requirements. Consider, too, that regulation is an arena where the more
extensive but relevant experience of industry in producing efficiencies of
outcome and other economies could shape projects by colleges and universities.
A major activity just getting underway is a comprehensive federal
assessment of the rules and procedures that promote or constrain the federal
Under the authority of the NSTC, I issued a Presidential Review Directive, or
PRD, to form a multi-agency task force under the direction of the Committee on
Fundamental Science, to focus on the major stresses in the areas of research,
education, and administrative regulations, and to determine what the federal
role should be in addressing those stresses. Dr. Ernie Moniz will speak to
you about this later this morning.
In summary, we are counting on our colleges and universities, in concert
with their partners and in the spirit of the GUIR Roundtable, to shoulder a
significant set of responsibilities in this time of national reexamination and
substantial evolution of our investments in the future. This reinforces our
commitment to sustaining the health of the university system as part of a
shared commitment to the prosperity, security, and quality of life of all our
In the President's State of the Union address, he issued a call to
strengthen education and harness the forces of technology and science to
enable the kind of future we aspire to. We have the mandate. We now must
have the will to move together from rhetoric to action. Taken in the right
spirit, stress, like the proverbial night before the hanging, can focus the
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House
White House for Kids | White House History
White House Tours | Help | Text Only