Overshadowing trends in the job market are impending changes in federal funding of basic research. The contract which has governed government-university relations for the past 50 years derives from Vannevar Bush's 1945 report Science--the Endless Frontier, has been pronounced dead by both university and Congressional leaders [NRC, 1994]. Central tenets of the Bush vision as they have been interpreted by the scientific community, according to Rep. George Brown (D-California), former chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, include:
The Bush contract has been pronounced dead in speeches in Congress and by university officials. Although members of Congress are careful to note the value of basic research, science is being castigated for failing to translate advances in basic research into national economic performance, and universities are being berated for focusing too much on research and not enough on education. In a recent speech, Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colorado) stated, ``Cutting through all the 'excellence' and 'quality' rhetoric reveals one very clear point: the focus in higher education today is on research, not teaching. This fact has not been lost on the professors. If you don't believe me, go ask one yourself. However, don't look for a professor in the classroom; it's unlikely you will find one.'' [O'Malley, 1993] There is a call for a greater accountability on the part of researchers as to how public funds are spent. If scientists are to be funded by the public, especially in a time when public funds are scarce, the public must benefit from its investment.
The Clinton policy document Science in the National Interest may be indicative of the future of federal funding of the sciences. The three key policy goals outlined in this document are to
Under this new government-university contract, a greater emphasis will be placed on funding research which addresses national goals, on spurring university-industry partnerships to stimulate technology transfer, and on educating all members of the population. The report acknowledges and stresses the importance of fundamental, non-applied research, and emphasizes that basic research will continue to be funded. Particularly telling, however, is a recent speech by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), former chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee which funds the NSF. Mikulski states,
I truly believe that there is a new paradigm emerging in how science is conducted and how science policy is organized. It's based upon the principle that science should lead to the new ideas and new technologies which should lead to jobs.... To regain the ground we have lost over the last two decades, we must seek models of collaboration between our universities and the private sector. We must focus our science investments more strategically--around national goals that are important to economic growth and whose results will ultimately improve people's day-to-day lives.... [the Subcommittee] said that 60 percent of what NSF research should go for should be strategic.... It does not mean that every NSF or NIH grant must result in six patents and four commercial licensing agreements.... It does mean that we should be spending more than half of our basic research dollars in areas we consider strategic. [Mikulski, 1994]
It is unclear what stance the new Congress will take on the funding of basic research. Some Republicans see the encouraging of (non-military) research in areas of national interest as a form of industrial policy, to be avoided at all costs. On the other hand, strategic, goal-oriented research is consistent with the Republican Contract with America's emphasis on greater accountability in the spending of government funds. Notably, Representative Steven Schiff (R-New Mexico), the new chairman of the House panel that oversees the NSF and basic research, believes that ``government [sponsored] research should be more goal-oriented,'' and he wants grants to universities to reflect this emphasis [Science, 1995].