John H. Gibbons, "Governing Science and Technology: Theory, Myths and Reality” - Compton Lecture (2/3) 11/30/1998

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COHEN: I'd like to welcome everyone to the second in the Karl Taylor Compton lecture series, the second lecture by Jack Gibbons. I'm Josh Cohen, the department head in political science. And the department is pleased and honored to be hosting Jack Gibbons's visit to MIT as the Compton lecturer. My responsibility today, apart from doing what I just did, which is welcoming you here and introducing myself, is to introduce the introducer of Jack Gibbons. And that is John Deutch.

John Deutch is a Institute Professor at MIT. He's served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency from May '95 to December '96. Before that, he was Deputy Secretary of Defense, and before that, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology. He's also served as Director of Energy Research, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Technology, and Undersecretary in the US Department of Energy.

In addition to all of that, he's been a member of the MIT faculty since 1970 and served as the Chairman of the Department of Chemistry, the Dean of Science and the provost. He's published 120 technical publications in physical chemistry as well as numerous publications on technology, international security, and public policy issues. But John Deutch, his greatest distinction is that he was the provost when I got tenure here. [LAUGHS] John.

DEUTCH: Thank you, Josh, for those compelling sentences, short and clear. I'm delighted to be here to introduce Jack Gibbons. Jack Gibbons is giving his second of three Karl Compton Lectures here at MIT. The third will be given in the spring at a date yet to be announced. This is the second.

I have particular warmth for Karl Compton lecturers, as having been a Karl Compton professor here for many years. But it's a particular privilege to introduce Jack Gibbons to you. And it's worthwhile to spend a moment, briefly, at least, on his career because it is instructive for those of us who care about educating people here at MIT.

Jack has had a quite broad career. He began actually nuclear physics, where he was for many years at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. And I believe that's what I first met him in the late '70s when I was Director of Energy Research for the United States Department of Energy. And he also spent considerable time at the University of Tennessee. I'll come back to this in a moment.

In 1979, more or less, he became a director of the Office of Technology Assessment for the United States Congress. This is really-- I guess we have to speak about in the past tense, don't we, quite regrettably. This was an experiment, good government. It was in fact a successful experiment, good government. And that explains why it's no longer there, more or less.

But the Office of Technology Assessment was intended to provide technical and objective-- two words, which are foreign to the patois in Washington-- technical and objective-- advice and counsel and information to legislators on a wide range of subjects that they had to address on Capitol Hill. And it did an enormous amount of extremely useful and valuable work. And mostly it was noted for its honesty and its even-handedness at every issue that it addressed.

Jack headed that office, as I said, from '79 till 1993 when he became President Clinton in the first term, President Clinton's Science Advisor. He served in that office for five years. And I think he served in that office with as much dignity and as much honesty and clarity as any prior occupant of that office. Needless to say, coming from Tennessee, coming from Oak Ridge, as he does, he was very close and a, you might say a lieutenant of Vice President Gore, but worked on a variety of issues throughout the first Clinton term, including what is perhaps not widely known, perhaps one of the most important times of rebirth of our support for-- federal support for basic research in a large number of departments throughout the federal establishment, notably NIH. But Jack did a splendid job, and I had the pleasure of working with him at that time.

What is special about Jack Gibbons? You know, he's here at MIT. We have lots of people who are knowledgeable, lots of people who have vast experience, lots of people who have distinguished careers and who know stuff that we should hear. But there is something unusual about Jack Gibbons, actually two unusual features about Jack Gibbons that's important for us, people here at MIT who care about technology and society, who care about how you give advice, how you give effective advice to government. There are two very special things about Jack Gibbons.

The first is his integrity. There has never been a time that I have ever heard in Washington in over 25 years anybody say anything but the fact that Jack Gibbons is clear and fair and evenhanded in how he makes his technical judgments. That is a rare reputation to have. I certainly lost my reputation in that regard a long time ago. Very important and something which I admire very much.

But also the second important thing is that Jack really invented a field there in the early '70s in a remote area of Tennessee. And he invented a field, which we now call energy conservation or energy productivity, if you like. But he was the first person in the technical community who took a systematic look at the question about how to use energy more efficiently and how to use energy in a way to accomplish all those things that we want energy to do for us with a minimum of adverse effect on the economy.

It is hard to realize how little work had gone on in the area of energy conservation before Jack started his laboratory and his work on this area in the early '70s down in Tennessee, and has kept it throughout his time at Oak Ridge University of Tennessee, and of course at OTA. So he has changed the way people think about important science technology issue, namely the area of energy conservation. And that's something that I respect about him, and that all of us should strive for as a goal of something we want to achieve professionally to change the way people think about an important technical or scientific social and technical matter.

He's going to speak to us today about a subject that there is no person better qualified to speak to us about, the governance of science and technology. He's going to talk about theory. That section should be relatively brief. He's going to talk about myth. That section should be rather large. And he's going to talk about reality, about which no one knows more. I ask you to welcome my friend Jack Gibbons.


GIBBONS: John it's a great pleasure to-- an honor to be introduced by you to this audience here today. I've enjoyed many years of friendship with John Deutch. And there's never been a dull moment, as those of you who know John can attest.

I do remember-- and I think I told John this once-- that I was once told by a friend of mine about biblical interpretations of academic appointments. And the statement was that if the president of the university is the shepherd of the flock, then the provost is the crook on his staff. And I'm not sure how you interpret that. But that I think is applicable if you're careful about the meaning of words.

My first lecture had to do with the 21st century and the kinds of questions about whether science and technology would contribute to that century or scuttle its opportunities. We talked about the enormous contributions that science and technology have made in the 20th century, the regrettable consequences of as side effects of some of those accomplishments, and also the mounting long-term issues that now we see in front of us for the 21st century.

Today, rather than trying to prognosticate about the 21st century, I'd like to talk a bit about the processes of forming and carrying out science and technology policy. In other words, its governance. And I will try to enrich my talk about process with some examples as we go along. And I hope there will be enough time today to have a spirited conversation and dialogue with you in the audience.

Historically-- and I think it's important to keep this in a historical context-- this nation has always been characterized by people interested in exploration and in discovery and in invention. You can go back before that the Declaration and certainly during the development of the Constitution and find full evidence of this. And it's replete through the years that have followed that late 18th century time.

I think of the Bill of Rights, which talks about the importance of protecting and encouraging the development of the useful arts and set up the process for patenting as a means of intellectual property protection for inventors. I think of Jefferson sending his friend Lewis and Captain Clark to the West to explore the West for the people to try to understand our resources and therefore be able to make fuller utilization of them. I think of around the 1840s when Samuel Morse went to the Congress and obtained a grant from the government to build a line carrying a wire from Baltimore to Washington so he could demonstrate his new invention of telegraphy. That was one of the first federal direct supports of the development of technology.

I think of the land grant universities being established again in about the middle of the 19th century, not only to train and educate, but also to provide for agricultural research and ultimately for its extension out to the users of that research. I think of the development of public health as a national means to try to build the protection and capabilities of our nation's health. Obviously, defense came along even more strongly in the 20th century.

The support of aviation through the NACA and then its transformation to NASA and the incorporation of space exploration and space sciences as a public adventure. Of electronics throughout a variety of the federal agencies as new means-- electronics and computers-- new means to increase our productivity and our access to information. And of course, the development of biotechnology. All of these are examples, I think, of eminently successful joint ventures between public and private interests in the further development of our nation and the development of the options for us to achieve our wants and needs.

So governance of science in these earlier years arose out of a time in which we shared a conviction that science and technology were means to ends that were desired by society, and therefore, merited support by society either through the encouragement and protection of private activities, or in fact, in addition, the incorporation of public resources in that process. But during that time, science was governed largely by its own internal processes, which we still enjoy, respect, and must covet today, namely that we have an internal discipline that provides for through our internal criticism independent verification, other means of assuring that science remains healthy and on target. I think it's illustrated-- is my mic still on? Yes, good. By a cartoon which you should recognize as an essay in pictures of the need for criticism of one's ideas and for the insistence of a continuity of thought when you're developing an idea, the continuity of data or theory or what have you.

John Locke said that basically the best way to govern is to govern closest to the place that needs governance. And within science, internal governance by our own capable-- by our own particular methods has been enormously successful, and has therefore enabled us to move ahead without having a lot of external governance applied to the process of basic science. It's a good lesson that we would like to translate lead to other things, but are not as successful that way.

Now to make sure you watch me instead of the board, I'll turn that off for a couple of minutes. In technology, it was a different matter. As I said, we started early by trying to encourage and protect the development of intellectual property. We developed, of course, over the years ideas of health and safety as an overpinning to the development of technology. But at around World War II, we came to a great watershed of influence of science and technology that was already revoluting the country. But I think the middle of the 20th century was a turning point in terms of the total impact of science and technology on our national enterprise.

During the time of Truman and Eisenhower, we found that the development of an office within the White House and the whole idea of science and technology as becoming a more and more central element in our process of federal governance. And MIT of course, has been very active from that time onward in the process of national policy and governance in science and technology. Vannevar Bush, another fellow from up in this part of the country, by the invitation of the president wrote an essay on Science, the Endless Frontier, which helped set the case for science in the post-war period as a means for achieving a variety of national goals in addition to defense itself. The creation of the National Science Foundation and of mission-oriented agencies came out of that same period in which the governance of science and technology was taking a full form. And of course of the appointment of the science advisor, a critical step in the White House.

During the post-World War II period, there came a time of questioning about how total the cornucopia was of the developments from science and technology. Atmospheric nuclear testing raised a lot of concerns about whether we were doing the right thing in that regard, in terms of radioactivity in the atmosphere. Rachel Carson and her essay on Silent Spring was concerned about the extent to which these long-lived pesticides were in fact a net positive for our society, and for the biosphere.

There were many arguments over the supersonic transport, which was a proposed plane to bring what someone at that time called the 21st century sound to America. Well, there were some people who felt that the sonic boom was not exactly a desirable 21st century sound. And there were other concerns about environmental problems in the upper atmosphere. And so there was a rising concern about whether or not we were being careful enough, not so much with science, but with the use of science in various technological applications.

Max Born at about that time wrote that-- he said, "Intellect distinguishes between the possible and the impossible. Reason distinguishes between the sensible and the senseless. Even the possible," said Born, "can be senseless." So there was this rising concern about the need for more careful governance, particularly of technology, in the closing decades of the 20th century.

Out of this came the formation of the Office of Technology Assessment, as John Deutch mentioned to you, in the early '70s, as Congress's attempt to create within its own house a mechanism for focusing the debates that had to do with science and technology, elevating the level of that debate, and providing the mostly non-technical members of Congress with a means to access the kind of information they needed in order to carry out their fiduciary responsibilities in the governance of science. In fact, the OTA found that in order to do this, to be an accepted and trusted party to both sides of the aisle, to both Houses and to all stakeholders with respect to technology, was indeed a great challenge.

And I remember in 1980-- this little thing has never seen the light a day before, incidentally-- we held an internal exercise about how to organize in order to carry out a technology assessment that would be trustworthy and acceptable to all the stakeholders, not so much to tell them what to do, but what their options were, and to narrow the debate a bit. In the process, we tried to talk about organizations. And I saved this sketch because I thought it's a funny-- it's a kind of a humorous insight into the way some of the OTA people thought about the world.

I hope you can see that. You will note-- and this is directly from the original we sketched one afternoon-- that there are various ways to organize. And they reflect different cultures, different nations. And you will note as you scan this, I think that the boxes tell you a lot about how different people think about organizing themselves in order to carry out work.

In the middle is our ultimate sketch of what we saw as OTA's organization, namely the birth, the development, and the evolution of an assessment. And you can't read the fine print. I can hardly read it myself now. But basically it entails recognizing stakeholders and working back and forth between analysis and communication with Congress and communication with stakeholders with constant feedback and review processes going on. A lot of feedback, criticism, and review until we finally had an output of a meaningful product.

But I did want to share this with you because the whole process of carrying out an assessment was something that took a long time to learn how to develop so that one could be assured of not only accuracy, but also trustworthiness of the information and completeness of the illumination of the issues so that all stakeholders could find their best argument within that document. And therefore, they could all use it as a means for elevating the debate. And by the time we really figured out how to make it work, of course, Congress killed it. And I'll get back to that later on.

About the same time OTA was created, the Office of Science and Technology Policy was created by Congress to be an office within the White House. It's actually a so-called independent office. It's not exactly in the White House, but it is part of the White House.

This came about because the Congress, at the time, was concerned about the lack of serious attention being placed on science and technology within the White House. And so they imposed this office formally into the White House structure. And it was meant by Congress to say we want some kind of high level advice and capabilities for science analysis within the White House, within the Executive Office of the President. That later evolved to be a part of this complex of the president's Science Advisor and that office itself. And I think it's working in an appropriate direction.

But it is funny, because in taking the job that I took and that Allan Bromley took before me, we actually had two commissions-- one as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, which had begun in earlier times, and also Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Now in the past five years, which I was of course more familiar with in the years before in terms of the White House, the president re-established and strengthened the Office of Science and Technology Policy. He enabled it to integrate across the executive agencies in a more policy level way by creating the National Science and Technology Council, which gave the office the authority to develop presidential decision memoranda and executive orders. This enabled us to begin to pull the agencies together across the executive branch in a more meaningful way to create, in a sense, a kind of a virtual S&T department in terms of picking out big programs, interrelating the relevant pieces across the agencies, and having them put together in a more meaningful way in terms of the budget and the programs they were carrying out.

We also were able to integrate the office across the White House, the other White House offices, which was very important, because the National Security, the National Domestic Policy, the National Economic policy, the National Environmental policy, and the Office of Management and Budget all have interlaced between them a bunch of science and technology. So we had to provide ways to pull these offices together. And in the chemist language, I think there is negative Van der Waals forces between these various offices. They tend to sort of separate out unless you pull them together.

And by this mechanism of the encouragement of the president, we were able to make joint appointments between senior members of the Office of Science and Technology Policy with other offices of the White House counsels. And that made a big difference in terms of us working together on issues, rather than in separate ways.

The president also established, or reestablished, the continued, the work of the president's Science Advisory Committee, the Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. The president broadened the basis of that committee by adding a substantial number of people from private industry as well as from universities and the not-for-profit sector. And that presence of senior-level representation from the private sector was very important in terms of providing advice to the president-- advice, including in the early time, some principles for the-- recommended to the president in the way he'd think about-- he would think about science and technology and the nation's future, some principles about the rationale for the engagement of the federal government and its largesse, and in the support of not only basic science but applied science the development of generic technologies, as it were, bridging between the traditional support of fundamental science on the part of the government and the ultimate marketplace of commerce.

And in between those two poles, there was a gap that needed substantially bolstering. And the president took the advice of the Science Council in that regard. The effort of the National Science and Technology Council transformed to the development of some strategy papers that were accepted by the president and issued over his name-- papers that had to do with the role of technology in our economic development with the science and the national interest, another, as it were review, of the question of the support of science itself, of the role of science and technology as a key strategy in our national security in a broader sense, not just of military defense, but also other dynamics that affect the stress level, which can lead to deadly conflicts over the broadening of the notion of national security, and also technology as a role in providing for environmental quality, at the same time having economic growth with job creation.

We created new sets of partnerships between the public and the private sectors involved in research. For instance, in the so-called partnership for a new generation of vehicles, which was a new, very long, decade-long commitment on the part of the public and the private sectors to a joint venture in advanced technologies relevant to the creation of an automobile that would serve in a number of public goals, including air pollution and dependence on fossil fuels and the likes, as well as private goals of staying competitive in a very, very major industry.

The president also used other mechanisms for assuring that science and technology were appropriately brought to bear on public issues. One was that he, with the assistance and cooperation of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, created the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. And this took a while to establish. But it became as formally established just in time for Dolly and the cloning business to come along, as well as a number of other ethical issues that were beginning to emerge in this issue of the governance of science and technology. And I think it's a good example of where an attempt that failed, when attempted by the Congress-- and Al Gore was wrapped up in that one and was very much in favor of trying it again down in the executive branch-- and create it as a means to provide anticipatory capability, to wrestle with ethical issues in science and technology in a way that was thoughtful, credible, and therefore accessible and usable by the legislators.

The Congress, meanwhile, of course, was in the midst of the post-Cold War rationale. There was an idea of what do we do with something that we have supported in the past, because it defends us-- it helps us defend ourselves and the world from the evil empire. What happens when the evil empire disappears? And there was a concern, therefore, about the most fundamental rationale for major federal support of research and technology-- science and technology in that post-Cold War era.

This was highlighted, I think, and underscored by the 104th Congress back in 1995 and '96, which had the mood of simply cutting government because anything that could cut the size of government was bound to be a good, not a bad. And a lot of arguments came up at that time about what is the appropriate federal role for science and technology in the post-Cold War world. The memos from the president's Science Advisory Committee were very helpful to the president at that time in making the defense and the rationalization for this continued support of these in specifically as appropriate to a variety of national-- overarching national goals.

Industry came forward strongly at that time as another factor or voice in the governance of science and technology, in the form, for example, of a number of very large newspaper ads that were brought out, signed by a large number of captains of very diverse American industries, urging Congress to support science, especially-- I was happy-- especially university-based research as means to achieve national ends. The power of the private sector coming in and not asking for money, but asking the federal government to support university research and higher education was a very telling-- made a very telling impact on the members of Congress as they delivered whether or not they should cut science by 30% or research by 30% or in that order.

So industry itself then played a role in affecting the way science and technology were governed, the perspective of how they should be governed and in what way. And academia also came forward. Your own President Vest was very effective, along with a number of other university presidents, in trying to clarify with a Congress that had not really thought this much about these issues, about the importance of science and technology as an integral part of the higher education process, and the combined impact of those activities on the future of our nation in terms of developing our options.

Later in not the 104th, but with the 105th Congress, the Science Committee in Congress decided they should look again at this issue of science in the national interest. And the only PhD physicist in the house-- Verne Ehlers, a Republican from Minnesota-- undertook under the direction of Chairman Sensenbrenner another analysis of so-called National Science policy study, which was completed earlier this year. And it essentially reiterated the earlier and was very compatible with President Clinton's own notions of this public support of science and technology.

What Ehlers did was point out that some of the more underrepresented groups in our society-- for instance, the smaller universities, the rural universities-- merited more support in terms of research. But by and large, this document was accepted by Congress by resolution. And we saw that as one key milestone in the reconciliation between the great struggles that the administration had with Congress in the 104th Congress and its coming back around to the re-establishment of at least a seemingly full bipartisan strong support for research in future years. A most pleasant seeming turnaround of events.

At the same time, we saw conversations in Congress about-- it's not exactly esoteric governance of science and technology, but the word was let's double the budget. Well, that's sort of a bottom line, isn't it? Let's double the budget for science in the Congress. What they didn't say was how soon. Some talked about doubling the budget in five years, others 10 or 12 years. So the number was not-- but the number was not so important as the direct explicit implication that the Congress had come to terms with the value of public support of research and technology and was committed to long-term investment in this direction, which was very counter to what had happened only a few years before.

Tells you another lesson about the governance of science and technology. There are some long-term underpinnings of support of this in our nation. But they are subject to near-term shifts of focus and attention and values. And that's a clarion call to those of us in the community not to assume anything. One must constantly reacquaint people with the relevance of what we do to the overarching national goals and needs of our people.

Let's see, I mentioned the establishment of the National Bioethics Advisory Committee as yet another example of what we have done. Now what's happened with respect to the doubling of the budget is that there is a resolution that says we will double the budget for research. The number spoken by some members urged on early was let's double it in five years. Others said 10 years. I think the final resolution says 12 years. And you know what 12 years doubling means. It's about what, about 6% per year?

Now that's a good-sized number. That's twice the GNP growth rate. But it's not a massive change in things. And let me tell you why that's-- even that, I think is an important number.

It's an important number because if you look at what has to happen with the federal budget, namely our agreements to move toward balance and the power of the budget committees to do so. And if you look at the makeup of the so-called budget itself, which is divided between entitlement programs-- which include Social Security and Medicare, a number of the other programs that are instituted by Congress-- and then look at the discretionary programs, which is really-- you can divide between defense discretionary and all the rest, non-military discretionary budget-- and the federal interest, payment on the debt, which, of course has tripled under in the Reagan years and is therefore now a very significant part of our total budget. You see that over time the entitlement programs and the interest on national debt have risen to the point of competing with the so-called discretionary programs, and that the nondefense discretionary programs now have reduced from about one-sixth of our budget to about one-seventh of the budget. So there is a constant squeeze on those resources that have to be taken into account any time you talk about change in science policy or the support of science and technology.

And now I want to speak a little bit about the budget. I almost ought to leave that up there so you can memorize it before the end of the afternoon. I'll leave it there a little bit longer.

Because the budget is where the battle is ultimately joined, and in the course-- in the Constitution, the name of the game is that the president proposes and the Congress disposes. It's an old saying, but nonetheless true, that that's what the theory is. In reality, as we look at these annual cycles of the budget-- let's just go through that very quickly.

The State of the Union, I think we're all familiar with. When does it happen? What time of the year? January. Thank you, Dr. Deutch. I was looking at the students, but he knows-- he knows the territory.

The State of the Union is both the end of a process and the beginning of a cycle. And so let's start a year earlier than the State of the Union and see what happens. In the late winter, especially in March, the Office of Management and Budget starts sending its initial marks or a dollars assignment to the various agencies, influenced in detail, at least, by the president's sense of urgency and of priority. Now remember, budgets never change revolutionary-wise. They change incrementally. But they do change.

So in the late winter, we have these first marks going out to the federal agencies-- instructions, as it were, for the agencies to take this number and figure how they can spend it with the highest yield and best reflection of the president's prerogatives. Around April, other instructions are sent to the heads of agencies. For example, we instituted-- when I got in the White House with Leon Panetta as head of the awesome management budget-- an annual memorandum that went to the heads of agencies to talk about the science and technology parts of their budgets and to provide them with a reminder of where the president stands on these issues and the special need for priorities both for individual programs as well as for those programs that cut across the agencies. That's around April.

By midsummer, the agencies have to take all this information and crank it back through their own planning process to develop a submission back to the Office of Management and Budget for their detailed agency proposal. Typically, the agencies came back with budgets that were larger than the numbers assigned to them by OMB. That's almost an annual ritual, which later causes the agency heads to interact with OMB and with the president. So the agency submissions come into the OMB in the summertime. And whereupon a number of conferences, or so-called pass-back meetings, happen between the agencies and the OMB. And the OMB is joined by, for instance, members of the Office of Science and Technology Policy with respect to science and technology parts of these budgets. And so this is an interaction of OMB, the Office of Science Technology Policy, the Council on Environmental Quality, the National Economic Council, you can name it, other White House offices that all co-join in working with the agencies to try to make sure that their budget reflects the priorities as seen by the White House offices.

The military, in this activity, can be seen as a kind of a place apart. It has less of the sort of breadth of involvement of the White House than the other so-called domestic agencies. But I'll talk about that more after a while.

In the late fall, we begin to pull all the pieces together. And there are appeals made back and forth between what OMB and the White House offices say on the one hand, what the agencies say. And of course, the cabinet officers can appeal directly to the president if they need to during that time. But there's a lot of horse trading that goes on during that period, engaged, as it moves toward a final decision about the budget, begins to engage fewer and fewer people within the White House. Because as you get close to the ultimate decisions about a budget that has to be done ultimately by the president, it moves from a time in which a lot of the White House offices are deeply involved to a time in which perhaps a half a dozen people or less are involved. And ultimately, between the president-- and he uses the Vice-President-- in the case of President Clinton, he use it Bob Rubin as Secretary of the Treasury, Gene Sperling, who is basically a chief domestic policy counselor, and the chief-of-staff as his-- to a degree, the rest of us, but mostly of smaller and smaller group of people to wrestle with putting all these pieces together to find a budget that's going to be manageable and defensible.

His final decisions are made basically during the month of December. And because by the end of December, the budget has to be ready to be put together, the pieces are written for the federal budget, and in January goes to the printer in time for the State of the Union. And then after the State of the Union comes the process of selling this budget, defending the budget before the Congress as they go through their rituals of hearings and consideration of the budget itself, which in turn take the spring and the summer, and sometimes the fall, and sometimes it goes right on through the year. And so you have a continuing resolution. You don't even have a budget.

But in the process of those hearings, again, the governance of science and technology is being tested. The president has proposed. The Congress disposes. And remember that the Congress has other constraints. They not only hear the President's budget, but within the Congress they start with an overall budget number. And then they decide how they are going to allocate this-- a so-called 602 or two allocations-- of the whole pie off to the different appropriations committees.

Now the committees that have a lot to do with science-- which in one committee, a subcommittee of appropriations has the National Science Foundation, the NASA, EPA, the office of-- and little things like the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Veterans Administration, and the Housing and Urban Development Administration. So we have mixtures of very powerful agencies like Veterans and Housing and mixed with science agencies all having to be squeezed into one single pot. In other words, we aren't trading in this kind of science for that kind of science, but we're trading between housing and science or veterans and science. And other parts of science are competing again with other national priorities. So there's no bucket for science. You have to understand the organization of these appropriations committees in order to understand the dynamics of defending the budget and of trying to help affect the process.

I think the record for the past five or six years is pretty instructive. First of all, in governance, the underpinnings, I think, are pretty constant. We do have a nation that supports research, is interested in research, is committed to the idea that one can have jobs and a growing economy and that at the same time, be secure in an international security sense as well as healthy-- and with a healthy environment. But in practice, we have to deal with change.

In other words, governance in this area, as in all other areas of governance, is a process. It's not written in stone. Well, what lessons?

First of all, I think one lesson that is-- I'm constantly aware of, is that our society does have this enduring optimism about the rewards of science and technology. But increasingly, it's saying we must not take for granted that these rewards are all going to be-- the returns are all going to be positive, especially as it has become more pervasive in our international lives. Secondly, as George Brown said with respect of Verne Ehlers' paper on science policy, he said, what's missing here is the imperative to link the investments in science and technology to the social purposes being served. And there, he feels-- and I tend to agree with him, and I know that President Clinton does-- there, he feels we're coming up short. It's important, in other words, to relate science and technology to societal goals.

Now in the private sector consideration of science and technology is a little bit easier. It has a very strong market discipline that acts on its decisions. And that market discipline in turn reflects a-- largely reflects society's concerns. But the public sector is more complex. We don't have the equivalent of a marketplace discipline. So we've developed things like the Government Performance and Results Act, which was created by Congress, to try to constantly evaluate the value of our various investments.

The problem of this, especially with respect to science, is that you can evaluate the process of science quite well, thank you, but only retrospectively. You can determine only by looking backwards how well you've done. And it's very difficult, if not impossible, to determine looking forward how you're going to do. So that's a-- puts it in a sort of a separate class of interesting challenges. How can we evaluate and persuade our benefactors, the American people, about the value of making these investments in research if we can't tell them what's going to happen? And I don't think we should try to tell them what's going to happen in detail, but rather look backward and say, here's what's happened in the past and here's why we are confident, therefore, it will happen in the future.

We got a lot of help from the Council of Economic advisors in this regard in which they, non-technologists looked backward at the role of research in America's economy and found an extraordinary rate of return, however uncertain, but an extraordinary rate of return, ultimately, of these investments in terms of the return to the public investment. So that's the second thing is that we have to make sure we relate science and technology to societal goals.

The third lesson to me is-- and this is multi-factored-- but it's important. Several things are important. One is it's really important to know the territory. The whole organization, the whole process, the whole rhythms of governance are important to understand in order to be able to affect it in a positive way.

Why, for instance, is a Department of Science probably a very bad idea when you look at the way we're organized and do things? Why is it that there is no science kitty? Why is it that that happens and how can we accommodate for that or take that into account as we try to help affect science policy and its governance? How to use that information, in other words, to inform the debate and help evolve an ever more rational and productive system of governance.

The importance of compromise. I remember one outstanding senator telling me when I was at OTA once, he said, "Jack, we were going to ask you about doing this particular analysis for us. But now it's too late." In other words, the decision hadn't been made, but the influence of the scientific analysis was simply beyond the pail. It had gone on to the more overarching political decisions that had to be made about the issue that he was talking about.

In this failure of the Superconducting Super Collider, we found another thing. Namely, not only know the territory, but also know the importance of compromise. Just like this, "It's too late for analysis," in this case, we found that the defense of the Superconducting Super Collider was not going to work for a variety of reasons, and that it was going to go down, even though the administration supported it in '93.

But as a consequence, we were able to recognize the importance of compromise here, not try to fight that decision, but rather to use it as a means to engender support for both the B-factory, the B-meson factory which is being built at Stanford, and also for the US joining the European community in support of the Large Hadron Collider. So I think that's the lesson of where if life gives you lemons then try to make lemonade from it.

The Space Station was another example that I'm still confounded with, I believe. But here is one in which we were again handed, as one administration went to another administration, we were handed a project with a lot of momentum to it, a project that involved the same sort of problems of the downscaling of federal activities in various regions of the nation, and our attempts to try to help buffer that rate of change of the federal government retreating from certain areas, and the opportunity to bring Russia in to what once had been a symbol of standoff between the free world and the evil empire to a place in which they were conjoined in the largest technical activity or high technology activity ever attempted in peacetime. And so again, a bunch of compromises went about in order to ultimately resolve the Space Station decision as it came about. And I'll be happy to go into this later if you want to.

The International Thermonuclear Energy Reactor is another case where fusion research, which is important as a long-term option, because we just don't have that many options, was focused, unfortunately, on trying to build a very large machine as the next round in thermonuclear fusion research. And it was internationalized. The greatest value of that whole activity, I think, was the fact that it was an internationalized activity. But we had to devise a way to move from an impossible commitment-- politically impossible commitment to participate in building such a big machine and move it to transform the activities, keeping it international, but moving it toward plasma physics materials. Science is relevant to plasma-- high temperature plasma and the likes. And that's what we're in the process of doing now again, a compromise with the highly unlikely possibility that we would build such an enormous machine at this point in time.

And I would say for instance, again, that MIT had, I think, played an important role in the government and the people understanding that it may well be premature to try to build a big machine yet until we know more about the physics and the chemistry and the material sciences related to fusion and plasmas. So again, I think we found a budget now-- find a budget that was sustained for fusion and plasma research, but with this emphasis shifted away from a big machine and more appropriately toward a broad gauge, a raging area of research.

And finally, another example of the importance for compromise was that the administration was approached with almost de facto legislation from the Farm Belt community, from the Corn Belt community, that we would do a genome of the corn plant and undertake that directly. We were able to persuade Congress gently that the way-- if you really want to get the corn genome for a good cause, the place to start is not with corn but with the lowly mustard plant, because that enables you to build up toward the more complex plant and probably get there better and faster and certainly less expensively. So by compromising with their desire to get the corn genome, we were able to mount a multiagency program on plant genome.

It's also important to be prepared, because government acts in response to something. As Adlai Stevenson once said, "America never seems to see the handwriting on the wall until their back is up against the wall," or at least they perceive that. And so, I learned a lesson from a man from the National Institutes of Health named Jim Shanon once, who always, when he was up with Congress, carried in his briefcase at least one or two really good ideas about how to spend more money at the NIH. And frequently having that thoughtful information immediately available when a question came up or a perceived crisis occurred enabled Shannon to do a magnificent job of expanding the activities of the NIH.

During the Arab oil embargo in 1973, which was a sudden crisis on America, a lot of foolish decisions were made. But we were able over the course of one weekend to put together information we'd been working on, which enabled us to move quickly toward passing a speed limit law on the open highways and a right turn on red law in urban areas so that we could slow down the very fast traffic, which was less fuel efficient, and speed up the slow traffic which would help urban air pollution and the mileage in town. And we were able to do it over a weekend. Had we not had the crisis or the information available during that crisis, it would not have been able to happen.

Another lesson I learned from OTA was what to do in terms of a very large administration dramatic recommendation. In this case, it was recommended, I think by Vice President Rockefeller, that we have a $100 billion program for sin fuels development. And we developed at OTA a testimony over basically over a weekend based on what work we had done to show that this would indeed be folly to try to commit to that kind of production in a technology that was not that well-developed. And we were informed the following week by the key committee that our testimony had persuaded them it was not a good thing to do. And it helped massively downscale the so-called Sin Fuels program.

And finally, we were asked in one point about the utility of space-based ballistic missile interception, immediately following President Reagan's declaration of the so-called Star Wars program. And we had anticipated some of this and had done some work and were able to deliver to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony, which basically threw very, very serious questions into the technical feasibility of this proposal, which in turn slowed down the process and got the White House, of course, quite mad at OTA. But again, an ability to respond authoritatively and quickly was key in that process.

Well, another important thing, I think, is to expect surprises and deal with them as best you can. One, two examples. One is the Mars rock, which we found out about when Dan Goldin met me in the country and whispered to me what was going on. And this was the discovery of a meteorite in Antarctica which was very careful and very fascinating. Microchemical and physical examinations seemed to bear some evidence of possible early life. And it was almost for sure a rock from Mars.

The way we had to handle that in terms of having the president being engaged in it and saying the right words about the process of science, rather than take advice from at least one of his more powerful political advisors-- namely who wanted the president to announce that he was going to decide to send people to Mars to investigate this-- told us again. And that took us 24 hours to turn around. But it tells you, again, that the name of the game, at least in the White House, is not in science and technology governance, is not so much hits or runs in the game. It's saves that keeps things from happening that shouldn't happen.

Another, of course, was Dolly. That sudden announcement caused a flurry of activities. And careful work between Harold Varmus, the head of the National Institutes of Health, and myself and others at the White House enabled the White House to take a position, which was thoughtfully developed, had just the right words in it to head off what would have been, could have been some disastrous constraints put on biomedical research on the part of an overzealous Congress trying to respond to that situation. So timing is terribly important.

And I think now there's a new and thorny issue before us, not only in terms of the relatively new issues of ethics. And that is of intergenerational governance, governance of science and technology with intergenerational issues taken into account. And I think one only need think about climate change issues, global biodiversity, global population issues as those things that are intrinsically exactly and very importantly intergenerational in nature and things that we haven't really faced substantially before in this century, that I think we're going to have to learn how to deal with in the coming decade.

And finally, pick your shots. I'll give you an example. Within the White House, especially post-Jerry Wiesner, working with respect to the Department of Defense is a place where you have to pick your shots. It's a very large elephant. And therefore, you can't try to tackle the whole elephant, but rather pick those things that are most appropriate to do in science and technology policy.

Some three things that happened during my time at the White House resulted in-- and I'm pleased to say all three worked out pretty well with the department. One was the ending of nuclear weapons testing and the coupled decision to support the idea of our nuclear stockpile stewardship program, which in turn enabled us, we believe, to convince people that we knew how to maintain a trustworthy weapons stockpile without having to do a continuation of nuclear testing. But the cost of that was to provide other means, nonexplosive means for doing this testing. That in turn enabled the US to maintain and take a leadership in the global push for the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty.

Second is, with respect to defense, was the convergence process, which John was very much a part of along with some of the rest of us, namely to find those places where military and civil needs could be merged rather than being carried out separately at much higher cost. And we were able to merge those interests with respect to the global positioning satellite system, with respect to weather satellites, and with respect to space launch capabilities. Those are but three areas in which we are able to co-join that domestic and military programs to save a lot of money in the process, and hopefully succeed.

The final one was in, and most recent budget I had to deal with was support for the basic and applied research programs in the Department of Defense so-called 6.1 and 6.2 programs, in which we determined fairly late in the process of the '99 budget that the department seemed to be getting ready to come in with a much lower numbers for those two areas because the services were more interested, especially certain of the services, were more interested in acquiring hardware and other things related to current readiness rather than these very long-term research activities, which are not that much on the agenda of the services' generals who have a relatively shorter time interest in their future. It's sort of like a CEO of a company whose products are become obsolescent fairly quickly, but long compared to their reward, namely the next quarter of the value of their stock. So they're necessary to focus in the short term and the same for some of the services.

We were able, from the White House, to spot this, to talk with the Office of Secretary Defense. And it happened more than once. And in each case, the secretary understood the absolute essential nature of supporting the basic and applied research programs from within the department. And those numbers were restored. And we're very grateful for that. So you have to pick your shots. And if you do so, you can win most of them.

Well, what's my final conclusion? I think science and discovery enables us to develop options that in turn will enable a desired future to emerge if we choose it. Antoine Saint-Exupery once said that-- I think this is from The Little Prince-- he said, "You job is not to predict the future, but to enable it." And that, I think, is the task of the science and technology community, to enable those overarching national goals and needs to be achieved.

And lastly, I think a conclusion is that we have a M found perspective of the power of science and technology in our present and future lives. Indeed, that power gives us, as someone said, both the promises of heaven and the perils of hell. And that reality means that governance will forever be with us in this very powerful medium. But also we must have eternal vigilance, especially from within the community, to assure that the debate is elevated, is level, and is one in which we can participate, not necessarily as members of Congress, but as concerned and informed citizens.

That's the end of my preaching for today. I want to thank you for your attention. I didn't see a single soul sleeping, and I'm astonished. And I'm ready to be attacked. Thank you.


OK. Now while I go over here to turn off my slide, do you have any comments or questions? Anyone want to go into political science? Let's start here, and then you're second. Yeah?

AUDIENCE: How do you see PhDs becoming concerned citizens [INAUDIBLE]?

GIBBONS: Well, I think PhDs have a special requirement because they have had the good fortune of not only having good minds, but also being able to exercise them and achieve an advanced degree. So they have special responsibilities inherently incumbent on them to be full citizens. And that is to use that wisdom to help inform the debate and to help raise the level of awareness in our society. Madison said that if we want to be our own governors, we have to use the power that knowledge gives us. And knowledge gives you a special amount of power. And you don't have to wait till you finish your PhD to begin to exercise that in the issues of public policy.

There are other ways once you finish. I, for instance, got into policy not right away, fortunately, but I did research for a number of years, and then I moved toward policy, because I had that extra experience of knowing what it's like to be at the bench, to be a part of discovery. And it became a fascinating thing to me, because it's a lot more difficult than doing physics. But there are postdoctoral fellowships to work on the committees of Congress. There are-- or on the staffs of some of the members.

We now have two PhD members of the House instead of one. That's 100 percent increase. That's a pretty good start-- on top of George Brown. So there are a variety of mechanisms. But I would say the first thing to do is to equip yourself with not only the technical skills that you have, but to constantly think and read about the relevance of those skills broadly to the issues before the public.

And as the president said, think about a homeowner and what their concerns are, and how did those concerns relate to the kinds of tools, of opportunities that science and technology bring to them. All too frequently, they're too separated.

It's easy to do with health. That's why NIH gets so readily supported. It's tougher to do with some of the other areas where we're working in, but nonetheless valid and important. In fact, Harold Varmus, in the Roosevelt Room a year ago, not even a year ago, stood up when we were having a meeting on the budget and made a wonderful defense, not of his budget but of the National Science Foundation budget, because he said we've got to have that support if we expect to move ahead in biomedicine. The president picked up on this and talked about it at the 150th anniversary of the AAAS.

It's that sense of the importance of all of science in order to move ahead on some particular area-- in this case, biomedicine. But it's a hard sell. And it's when we have to continue to work on and understand that it's not widely known about the relevance of science to people's individuals' lives, not as widely known as we need it to be. Yes?

AUDIENCE: This question more has to do with more of what's the aspect of it. Why is it like, pertaining to specifically the Superconductor Super Collider, is it that when whatever agency was leading that, why couldn't they go to Congress and say, well, we need $10 billion or however much we need over the next five years. Why can't we have a guaranteed 10 billion and just have that given to us over five years, instead of having to come back each year and asking for $2 billion. And eventually, well, as that case was, they needed a couple billion dollars and just cancelling the project.

GIBBONS: Well, there are precedents to this. For instance, when you build a new aircraft carrier, you commit to the whole thing. And then you-- and that sort of puts the Congress on the line to say in the succeeding years we're going to commit and make the necessary appropriations. It's never really been carried over to large scientific projects, in that sense. But Congress is moving in the direction of wanting to budget by project rather than by year-by-year things.

The problem on the SSC was not so much its total expenditure, which was large, but the fact that it was not on schedule. They were running into some problems with some of the magnets. And it was a US national effort. It had not been internationalized. And when we got into office, we couldn't internationalize it that fast.

And it was esoteric. I remember defending that budget in front of a Senate committee. And I tried to use every analogy I could think of. I said, "Look, this is an accelerator. But it's really a microscope, because you're looking at the smallest particles. It's also a telescope, because you're looking out toward heavenly bodies and trying to understand some of the very energetic events. It's also a time machine, because it takes you back to that very high energy associated with the origin of the universe."

And I got all excited and that didn't do much good, because the Congress had decided that this was big science. It was a big expenditure. It was very esoteric. They didn't see its relationship to the overarching goals of health, environment, security. And it was too distant, just too distant. And it's very sad.

And we could go on on that one. But if you want a quick follow-up--

AUDIENCE: I was just wondering why, I mean, other, if anyone's ever gone to Congress and said, well, use some other esoteric and distant, distant research-based projects that have, or research ideas that have had practical applications, 40 or 50 or 60 years down the line. I mean, you can go everything from Einstein's theory of relativity, applications using GPS. He didn't think, or he didn't know at the time, well, if I think of this theory, then you'll be able to tell where you are on the plant. 60 years later somebody said--

GIBBONS: You're absolutely right. And it's important not to say it once, but remember of Congress turns over very frequently. And there are new faces there. Some of the staff turns over about 50% per year. So it's a constant education process. But there are frequent, not only allegations, but references to the fact that if you look at the work done that leads to Nobel prizes, the lag time there is typically now like two decades, with exceptions, obviously. But it is important to understand that you can't tell now exactly where things are going to lead.

But remember, the SSC was very popular with its idea, with the notion it was going to be built over time. There was a great contest across the country for consortia of universities and states to get together and bid for this accelerator. All Congress was in favor of that, because they all came from at least one state.

As soon as it focused on one state, namely Texas, forget it. The rest really weren't all that interested, because they didn't associate that facility with benefits to their state. They could have, they should have, if they'd understood that it would be a place where their scientists could operate as well not just a place where it happened to be located. But that wasn't done. And that's an issue of thinking about establishing the value of a capital commitment in one place to other states within the whole country.

Now, what's going on right now, for instance, I think is a better shot at it, where we are trying to build an Advanced Neutron Source for a variety of neutron diffraction stuff. Cliff Shull here was one of the early Nobel Laureate engaged in neutron diffraction. It's a tool of studying condensed matter, physics of studying biological molecules, all sorts of things.

But you can only build one of these things. They're very expensive. And they finally settled on both the facility, which will be an accelerator rather than a nuclear reactor, and will be located at Oak Ridge, not because that's where the vice president's from, but because that's where we have a very large national laboratory deeply engaged in this work over years that-- and it's the only of the big national laboratories that doesn't have some big facility in it.

So here we're trying to build the case that this facility, wherever it located, has enormous importance to the nation, not just in basic research, but also by industry. And we hope that by that means, Congress will continue to fund the project itself. And the most recent vote was that they intend to do that. Yes, ma'am?

AUDIENCE: OK, a minute ago, you said that the connection between the scientists and the homeowner is not widely known. And it doesn't strike well, simply because I know that as a scientist, I'll be a homeowner also. And I wonder if it's not widely known simply because we as scientists tend to separate ourselves from the rest of the community, and that we don't sit and really think about what impact our research and our inventions, or whatever else that we do, will actually have on the society and the community that we live in. And I wonder if you see any way, like through education, say here at MIT, or at any other institution, where we could really encourage scientists and students to really think about all of those things while we're in our research, because we tend to kind of forget about the rest of the community. And that's why there's a separation between scientists and non-scientists.

GIBBONS: I think so. I think it's a process that has to go on, like education, for all of your life. But I think an awareness level raising of the importance of doing this for our own sake at all-- but it also is a part of our job-- is something we need to work on. That's one reason I'm up here this fall. Yeah?

AUDIENCE: I'm a physicist turned political scientist. And for both fields--

GIBBONS: Where did he go wrong, John? [LAUGHS]

AUDIENCE: We're both, from both fields I got the impression that the OTA was an agile and efficient pocket inside of the huge brass of bureaucratic government. Now that it's gone, what do you see as other agencies that are agile, efficient pockets in the brass?

GIBBONS: Well, there are pockets of agility here and there, no question about it. And I think what Vice President Gore has been trying to do is to maximize those, minimize some of the rest, by the so-called reinventing government. But OTA fell, not because it was ineffective, but for two reasons.

One is Congress needed a scalp, because they were cutting budgets everywhere. And of all of the congressional offices, I think other than an arboretum somewhere, OTA was the smallest and politically the least capable to defend itself. Politically, it is capable because it is science. And you know, science is very far away from most political lives.

Secondly, the other agencies served all of Congress, not just committee chairs. And thirdly, and this, I think, is probably to a degree legitimate, though not wholly so. There was a perception, at least, that OTA's work took too long, that issues-- they couldn't get an answer fast enough for their needs within the pulse of the Congress. I think that was wrong. But that was a perception.

And finally, there was a need-- there was a felt condition on the part of those conservatives that OTA was too liberal. And it mostly relates back to the Star Wars fight we got into. Some people even called the demise of OTA as Reagan's revenge. And I think, again, the facts of the matter are that it cannot be labeled as either liberal or conservative, because we always gave the best arguments to both sides. But that nonetheless was part of the argument.

Whether one could ever recreate OTA, I don't know. I do know that there is a Republican member of Congress, Amo Houghton, who used to run Corning Glass before he ran for Congress, who has been desperately trying to reestablish something like an OTA, and they're waiting for someone to come up with a good idea about how to recreate that capability for the Congress. It's not going to happen within the Library of Congress or the generous accounting-- pardon me, the General Accounting Office, because it simply aren't organized the way you have to get organized to do it.

AUDIENCE: So nothing out there currently that's not [INAUDIBLE]?

GIBBONS: There's, well there are some attempts. One is to try to shape the Academy of Engineering, the Academy of Sciences, to do some of this. Partly possible, but not wholly satisfactory, because you have to be, you need to be a part of the family in order to be involved in it. Another is to have places like MIT that have enormous capabilities, at least a latent capability to rapidly respond authoritatively to issues, that could be better tapped, especially by those members within their purview, their region. And I think that may be a great hope for the nation is for the university community to somehow organize itself to be able to be more responsive to queries, to get a little closer to the members. And if you're closer to the members and the senior staff, you're more likely to get asked those questions or be brought into the arguments. Yes?

AUDIENCE: On the subject of predicting the long-term benefits of science funding, the US has a reputation for having the best, or among the best international programs for research and education at the highest levels, but a reputation for having comparatively poor science education in the primary and secondary school levels. I'm wondering if anybody, any of the advocates of science funding in Congress are thinking that far ahead.

GIBBONS: Yes, very much so, both in Congress and in the administration and in the state houses. I think we do have a woeful situation in our K-12 system. And the nation, we're obviously working very hard at that now, in capable teachers as well as bringing in capabilities such as access to information technology access, to improve the process of learning, the effectiveness of the learning system. And we have a long way to go.

It is by the skin of our teeth that somehow magically, despite this woeful, woefully inadequate preparation, we still manage to do very well when we get to the undergraduate and especially the graduate years. So we need to hold on to the best and not take it for granted, like MIT, but at the same time focus hard on K-12.

I was very dispirited the other day when the president the National Academy of Sciences told me that his daughter had finished a PhD in biochemistry. And to the great angst of her department, faculty that she had graduated from, she decided to go into high school teaching of science. And her father, Bruce Alberts, was furious at the department for denigrating the idea that a fresh PhD might deign themselves to try to teach high school science. I say she ought to have a medal.

I've kept you longer than we should've. We're going to have a reception, is that right? And I know John Deutch is out of sick bed to be here. And I think the rest of you deserve a break. So I want to thank you for inviting-- for coming to hear me for the second time. We'll do one more time in the spring. Thank you very much.