National Science Policy

May 18, 1960

Report Outline
Federal Government and the Sciences
Postwar Expansion of American Science
Proposals for a Department of Science
Organization of the Sciences in Russia

Federal Government and the Sciences

Calls for a government science program, to provide for more coordination and centralization and less duplication among administrative units, were voiced in this country long before launching of the first sputnik by the Soviet Union in 1957 made the United States acutely conscious of its shortcomings in scientific endeavor. Vannevar Bush, head of the wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development, wrote 15 years ago:

We have no national policy for science. The government has only begun to utilize science in the nation's welfare. There is no body within the government charged with formulating or executing national science policy. There are no standing committees of the Congress devoted to this important subject. Science has been in the wings. It should be brought to the center of the stage—for in it lies much of our hope for the future.

Now, a decade and a half later, the situation described by Bush remains almost unchanged. Although legislators and administrators have repeatedly examined and criticized the role of the government in the nation's scientific effort, they have come to agreement only lately on the need to expand basic research, to do more to promote science education, and to formulate a comprehensive federal science policy. Little progress along these lines can be expected as the Eisenhower administration draws to a close and the present session of Congress enters the home stretch. But reorganization of the government's scientific programs will be one of the principal tasks confronting the President and the Congress elected next November.

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