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President Clinton and Vice President Gore

Renewing the Federal Government-University Research Partnership

for the 21st Century

April 27, 1999


Today, President Clinton will direct the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to strengthen the Federal government's research partnership with American universities and to work with universities to advance shared goals. The President will call on Federal agencies and universities to renew their mutual commitment to the partnership; strengthen the linkages between research and education; and take actions to make the partnership more effective and efficient. The President will release the NSTC report on Renewing the Federal Government-University Research Partnership for the 21st Century.


  • In the summer of 1996, the President received letters from leaders in industry and academia, state governors, and Congress stating that incremental changes in government policy and administrative practices were undermining national objectives and harming universities. They urged a thorough review of the government-university research partnership to strengthen it and make it more effective.
  • In September 1996, the President's Science Advisor issued Presidential Review Directive - 4 (PRD - 4) to address these concerns. The review was conducted by a task force under the auspices of the National Science and Technology Council. The task force, comprised of the major Federal research agencies (NIH, NSF, DOD, DOE, NASA, USDA), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and chaired by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), solicited input from universities and Federal agencies on matters considered most pressing and in need of review.
The Report's Findings and Recommendations

1) Principles of the Partnership - A Renewed Compact: While Federal laws, circulars, and regulations govern operational aspects of the government-university relationship in areas such as allowable costs, administrative procedures, compliance issues, and audit practices, there is currently no statement of principles to guide the overall relationship. As long as this remains so, the government-university research partnership risks being defined primarily in an ad hoc manner, through detailed accounting, administrative, and financial management requirements, and not by our broader, overarching national goals.

A clearly articulated statement of the principles of the partnership will help clarify the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of the government and university partners and establish a framework for addressing future issues as they arise. Ultimately, an agreed upon statement of principles also will serve to shape future discussions, formulate policies, and help guide decision making.

Recommendation: The NSTC will work with the university community to develop a statement of principles of the government-university partnership to clarify the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of the parties namely, funding agencies, universities, individual investigators, and regulatory bodies and to provide a framework for the development of new policies, rules, regulations, and laws affecting the partnership.

2) Research and Education -- A Seamless Web: The integration of research and education is the hallmark of our American system of universities. An important rationale for the Federal investment in university-based research is the benefit derived from training a new generation of scientists and engineers. When students participate in research they simultaneously gain critical educational and training experience and contribute to the national research enterprise. The integration of research and education is therefore vital to the future of our nation, to our research enterprise, and to our future scientific and engineering workforce.

Recommendation: Government policies and regulations will be revised to reflect the vital and dual roles of students -- undergraduates as well as graduates -- as both researchers who contribute to the national research enterprise, and as students who gain research experience as part of their training.

3) Reinvent the Rules of the Partnership to Make it More Effective and Efficient: The report found numerous instances where guidelines and regulations, which in many ways provide the administrative framework for the partnership, were found wanting. These ranged from how the costs of research are allocated, to the paperwork requirements for grants, to environment and safety regulations. In order to maximize the effectiveness of the partnership, a proper balance must be struck between government oversight and the conduct of research.

Recommendation: The President will direct the NSTC to foster a more productive policy, regulatory, and administrative environment and to promote cost and administrative efficiencies while maintaining accountability for public funds.

Selected Facts And Figures About The Importance Of University-Based Research

  • The government-university partnership contributes to America's economic prosperity by discovering new knowledge, stimulating technological innovation, and educating the next generation of scientists and engineers.
  • Federal investments in university-based research are an integral component of the larger research and development enterprise that has enabled approximately half of the nation's productivity and growth in the last 50 years. Federally supported university-based research is a critically important investment by the nation in its future prosperity and well-being.
  • The Federal government is the largest supporter of university research. In 1998, the Federal government invested $15.2 billion in university research, more than 60 percent of support from all sources for university research, accounting for more than half of Federal investments in basic research and more than one-third of its investment in total research (basic and applied).
  • Unique state-of-the-art research facilities at major research universities help foster public-private S&T partnerships. These facilities provide essential research tools for a wide range of disciplines and encourage collaborative research relationships between researchers in Federal laboratories, industrial partners, and university students and faculty.
  • The strength of our university system is that it combines education and cutting-edge research. Students gain their education and training, in part, by doing research, which at the same time benefits research. Other nations seek to emulate our world-class U.S. model.
  • Today's fastest growing industries depend on university-based research in diverse fields such as microelectronics, biotechnology, material science, telecommunications, manufacturing, information technology, and advanced machine tools and robots.
    Copies of the NSTC report on Renewing the Federal Government-University Research Partnership for the 21st Century released by the President today are available by faxing requests to 202-456-6021 or may be found on the OSTP web page at: /WH/EOP/OSTP/

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