Science: The Endless Resource

America's future demands investment in our people, institutions and ideas. Science is an essential part of that investment, an endless and sustainable resource with extraordinary dividends. This investment strategy was clearly articulated fifty years ago in Vannevar Bush's seminal report "Science: The Endless Frontier:"

"The Government should accept new responsibilities for promoting the flow of new scientific knowledge and the development of scientific talent in our youth. These responsibilities are the proper concern of the Government, for they vitally affect our health, our jobs and our national security."

The bedrock wisdom of this statement has been demonstrated time and again in the intervening half century. The return from our public investments in fundamental science has been enormous, both through the knowledge generated and through the education of an unmatched scientific and technical workforce. Discoveries in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and other fundamental sciences have seeded and have been driven by important advances in engineering, technology, and medicine.

The principal sponsors and beneficiaries of our scientific enterprise are the American people. Their continued support, rooted in the recognition of science as the foundation of a modern knowledge-based technological society, is essential. The nation's investment has yielded a scientific enterprise without peer, whether measured in term of discoveries, citations, awards and prizes, advanced education, or contributions to industrial and informational innovation. Our scientific strength is a treasure which we must sustain and build on for the future.

To fulfill our responsibility to future generations by ensuring that our children can compete in the global economy, we must invest in the scientific enterprise at a rate commensurate with its growing importance to society. That means we must provide physical infrastructure that facilitates world class research, including access to cutting-edge scientific instrumentation and to world-class information and communication systems. We must provide the necessary educational opportunities for each of our citizens. Failure to exercise our responsibility will place our children's future at risk.

Science does indeed provide an endless frontier. Advancing that frontier and exploring the cosmos we live in helps to feed our sense of adventure and our passion for discovery. Science is also an endless resource: in advancing the frontier, our knowledge of the physical and living world constantly expands. The unfolding secrets of nature provide new knowledge to address crucial challenges, often in unpredictable ways. These include improving human health, creating breakthrough technologies that lead to new industries and high quality jobs, enhancing productivity with information technologies and improved understanding of human interactions, meeting our national security needs, protecting and restoring the global environment, and feeding and providing energy for a growing population.

The challenges of the twenty-first century will place a high premium on sustained excellence in scientific research and education. We approach the future with a strong foundation, built by the wise and successful stewardship of this enterprise over many decades, and with an investment strategy that was framed during this Administration's first month as three interconnected strategic goals:

The first goal was elaborated in the Administration statement "Technology for America's Economic Growth" , and the second in the Vice President's "National Performance Review". Our policies in these areas are already working to prepare the future. The third goal represents a critical long-term investment, one for which we need both vision and a sound Federal policy.

A Time of Change

We face change on many fronts, and change characteristically engenders both opportunity and uncertainty. The end of the Cold War has transformed international relationships and security needs. Highly competitive economies have emerged in Europe and Asia, putting new stresses on our private sector and on employment. The ongoing information revolution both enables and demands new ways of doing business. During the 1980's, our Federal budget deficit grew rapidly, constraining crucial investments for the future. Our population diversity has increased, yielding new opportunities to build on a traditional American strength. Health and environmental responsibility present increasingly complex challenges, and the literacy standards for a productive and fulfilling role in twenty-first century society are expanding beyond the traditional "three R's" into science and technology.

As our institutions anticipate, manage, and respond to change, we must continue to focus on the enduring core elements of our national interest: the health, prosperity, security, environmental responsibility, and quality of life of all of our citizens. At the same time, we must respond to the changing character of the challenges presented by each of these core elements. For example, as the nature of today's external security threat has shifted profoundly, we have come to recognize economic and technological strength as integral to national security. Likewise improved science and mathematics education for all citizens is now recognized as a strategic imperative for our individual and collective futures.

We must reexamine and reshape our science policy both to sustain America's preeminence in science and to facilitate the role of science in the broader national interest. Each core element of the national interest requires strong commitment to scientific research and education: