- Press Release
- August 8, 2022
Newt Gingrich at NSF: The Role of Federal Research in the Nationís Prosperity and Security
National Science Board Symposium on Allocation of
Federal Resource for Science and Technology
National Science Foundation
May 21, 2001
Keynote Speech by The Honorable Newt Gingrich
MR. GINGRICH: Thank you very much. I want to
thank the National Science Board for inviting me out here, and I want to thank
Dr. Colwell for once again hosting me. I’m very grateful to be here.
I feel a little bit intimidated, but those of you who
know my career know that I often rise above that moment. So I’m going to dive
MR. GINGRICH: I believe I’m only going to give
you an outline because I hope with the permission of the moderator that we’ll be
able to take questions for a couple of minutes. And I’m probably going to be a
little provocative. Dana Pazey is going to be handing out four handouts.
Let me just say in advance, one is a science editorial
that I did on the concept of an opportunities-based budget which I want to come
back to. The second is a letter we just sent out this week to my former
colleagues urging them to adopt in the short run the goal of the Bond amendment
in the Senate and doubling the NSF budget which I think is inadequate but is the
right direction. And I’ll say bluntly I think that the science part of the Bush
budget was the weakest part of that budget, and I’ve said it publicly.
I also have two short pieces. One is a New York Times
piece on the concept of transformation and the other is a paper I just did at
the American Enterprise Institute on the concept carrying it much deeper, the
notion, which I really want you to think about as we go through this.
Now let me be up front and say I want to suggest a
number of ideas here that you may find stimulating, interesting, provocative.
But I have two core ideas that you may find horrifying. The first is that
scientists have to act like citizens. That is, that no matter how noble your
cause and how fascinating your laboratory work, you don’t really have the luxury
of being above the fray of demeaning yourself by actually talking to your
senator or talking to your representative and explaining what the great
And I’ve said this a AAAS. I’ll say it anywhere I can
get to. I really think it’s important for people who understand science to take
moral burden of explaining to the opinion leaders, to the elected officials, to
the senior government people, why science matters and why the next quarter
century will be so important.
Because after all, if you don’t do it, you know, it’s
almost a part of C.P. Snow’s theory of the two cultures, which was that those
who know don’t talk, and those who talk don’t know. So if you can get on
"Oprah" and be heard, you probably don’t know anything you’re saying.
But if you knew it, you probably couldn’t get on "Oprah" because you’d
be too boring to be understood on a popular show.
Now somehow we have to bridge this, and I just want to
say as an outside observer, when you watch the fate of people of Carl Sagan and
Venter, they’re actually punished for having the temerity to actually go out
among the proletariat and explain all of these ideas. It is somehow demeaning in
the culture of science. And this is terribly important in a free society.
So that my first heretical notion is I feel pretty
cheerful saying to scientists, yeah, you’ve got to go see members of Congress.
have to see cabinet officers. Yes, you’ve got to go see editorial boards. In a
free society if you don’t educate, who do you think will?
And my second heretical thought is, we need a much more
bold willingness to take seriously the scale of the opportunity that science is
bringing us. And I’m going to be a little bit cutting across the underlying
theme, which is a higher optimization of the resources you already have. Because
the thrust of what I’m going to say in the next few minutes is you should
dramatically increase the resources and you should manage them better.
But that managing them better is not a substitute for
increasing them. It is impossible to sub-optimize the current resources to get
to the scale of breakthroughs we need.
Now as background let me just say that, as Dr. Colwell
said, whether it’s the economy, health or defense, you cannot explain modern
America’s role in the world without looking at the impact of science and in fact
without continued investment in science, we will not be able to sustain any of
those three areas. We will neither lead economically, have the breakthroughs in
health that we need, nor be able to defend ourselves.
I served for three years after I stepped down as
Speaker on the National Strategy Study Group, the Hart-Rudman Commission. And we
frankly ended up in a different place than we intended. Fourteen members, very
bipartisan, a lot of experience in national security, we found ourselves saying
that the greatest thereat to America’s future — and our assignment was to look
out to 2025. This is a Commission that the President and I actually created in
1997 together, deliberately to get beyond the immediate arguments, to get beyond
the immediate concerns, and to look at the scale of the world.
We found ourselves over a three-year period concluding
that the number one threat to America is a weapon of mass destruction going off
in an American city. Chemical, biological or nuclear, whether delivered by
missile or by terrorist, we think it is mathematically such a significant threat
that there has to be a home land security agency and a real look at consequence
management at an event which could cost an enormous number of casualties.
But that was not a huge surprise to us. You could sort
of see that when we started down the road. But our second conclusion I think
actually bubbled up in the last six months of the Commission and overtook us and
did surprise us. And that was that the number two threat to American national
security is the failure to invest adequately in science and the failure to make
sure that science and math education produce enough young Americans to actually
do the science that’s needed.
And we concluded very specifically in a sentence
unanimously adopted that there was no conventional war in the next 25 years that
was as big a threat as the failure to invest in science and the failure to
modernize scientific and math education. And that’s I think a fairly sobering
conclusion from a group of people who are actually national security oriented
and you would have thought would be much more concerned about the F-22 or the
B-17 or national missile defense. And our conclusion was, those are all
important. This is more important. Much more important. So in that context, what
I want to suggest to you is a series of 10 principles, one of which actually is
on education. I have three points to make. But let me just give you my 10
principles briefly, because I’d really like to have a dialogue a few minutes.
One. We’re at the edge of a new explosion of knowledge.
The rise of instrumentation, the rise of supercomputers, et cetera, the sheer
scale of scientific activity on the planet, the degree to which it’s now being
brought together in real time by the Internet, the minimum change, in my
judgment – this is a historic judgment we can argue about. My judgment is the
minimum change in the next 25 years will be equal to the entire 20th century.
And I say this to every audience. That is, if you go to 1900, no motion picture,
no aircraft, no television, no mass-produced car, and you come to the year 2000,
that’s about the scale of change in the next 25 years. And if anything, that’s
on the low side. It may be bigger. Now that’s very important, because the truth
is, our psychological attitude is, that we are coasting at the peak of our
success, not we’re launching a new race. And it’s exactly wrong.
Exactly. You read stories, the human genome project has
been completed. Utter, total nonsense. Being told you’ve mastered the alphabet
at the foot of the Library of Congress suggests you have a lot of reading to do.
MR. GINGRICH: Let me go to my second point. And
I really think this is important and will initially be counterintuitive. And
again, I’m going to try to rush through these so you can challenge me if you
deeply disagree. We should be emphasizing how little we know. Yes, it’s been a
great couple hundred years. Yes, we’ve learned a lot. But let me just give you a
There was an article in the Post about three weeks ago
about looking at the universe. I think it’s 400,000 years after the Big Bang.
And the article goes on to say in a paragraph buried about halfway down that
slightly less than 5 percent of the universe seems to be visible matter or light
matter. That around 30 percent apparently is dark matter we know from
gravitational effect, and apparently slightly over 65 percent is dark energy.
Now my impression as a nonphysicist is, what we know
about dark matter is the gravitational effect. And we know less about dark
energy, except it seems to be pushing the universe apart.
Now as a historian who doesn’t know anything about
science, if I just put up a chart and say, okay, this is the 5 percent we claim
to be the area we’re really getting pretty decent at, although we don’t know
much about it, and then there’s this 95 percent, I would have to say most of the
universe currently is not understood very well. Which goes right at the heart of
physics’ sort of hubris that we’re getting really close. It doesn’t seem that
way to me.
I went back and read Feynman’s nonmathematical parts of
his explanation of confusion, and Feynman says over and over again, we can tell
you what. We can’t tell you why. Which again as a historian suggests to me
there’s a lot of learning still available.
I went out to see Craig Venter the other day at Celera.
He says, you know, there are fewer genes than we thought there would be.
Apparently the stuff we’ve been calling junk DNA is really important in terms of
timing, regulation. And the fact is that since there are fewer genes, that
actually makes it more complicated because it means the fewer genes are
interacting with the quarter million proteins in ways more sophisticated than we
So it actually turns out that the human cell operates
in a more complex way than we thought two years ago when we didn’t know much.
And we don’t know much about all those more complex ways except they seem to be
Now I would suggest to you if you simply listed up here
the total number of nano activities going on in your body in one second you
could begin to communicate to people, we have a lot to learn. And I think it’s
really important. Because people need to have the sense of standing at the edge
of the future, not reading the closing chapter of this great book of science.
And that’s part of why the momentum I think declined in terms of the push for
more resources and the push for more excitement about going out to study.
Young people need to know in the 7th and 8th grade,
we’re at the beginning of the great adventures. Not, gee, it’s great those folks
did all that and it was a terrific 20th century, but now that it’s all known,
why do I want to go and spend my life doing mop-up? And I think it’s not mop-up
It’s a little bit like being told — my analogy would
be that Columbus has come back and said we found an island. And the story was,
"New World Discovered: Exploration Over".
MR. GINGRICH: And my third point is that we need
to have the courage to dream big. I think the minimum target for NIH ought to be
to triple its
MR. GINGRICH: I’m sorry, NSF. I’m sorry.
MR. GINGRICH: We’ve done NIH. Thank you.
This is actually an error because I wrote "NIH"
and I didn’t mean to.
MR. GINGRICH: We’re winning on NIH. And I said
publicly I think the largest single mistake I made on science policy was not
insisting that we carry NSF simultaneously, and because the difference in their
size is a baseline, I think you need to triple NSF to have the same effect as
In addition, I would argue, as the Bush Administration
goes through rethinking the Pentagon, they should go back to the peak year of
DARPA as a percent of defense spending and get back to the size of DARPA that we
need. There is not the resources available today in basic research in defense to
do anything like the ARPANET project was in the late sixties.
And so those both fit — I’ll talk briefly about the
Fourth, scientists and scientific associations have to
learn seriously this art of public communication. I’m trying to give you some
examples of it. But I think the notion of enlisting people in the beginning of
the 21st century adventure rather than the mopping up of 20th century science is
a terribly important part of this. And that means re-educating many of the
science writers who are into a habit right now of writing success stories that
make it sound like the race is over. It means I think finding new language.
But it also means saying to scientists, there’s a
legitimate public role. You’re not going to be scorned if you end up on
"Oprah". You’re not going to be scorned if you’re on "The Today
Show". I think that’s very hard to do in the community.
Fifth. I think it’s vital as a subset of that that we
better educate the legislative and executive branch. And again, this is a doable
thing. There are only 435 members of the House. There are only 100 members of
the Senate. I mean, just, you know, physicists, high-energy physicists alone
could drown them if they took it seriously.
MR. GINGRICH: And it’s important. It’s important
that members hear from principals face-to-face. My guess is — I don’t know the
exact number — but there may be more Nobel Prize winners in America than there
are elected members of the legislative branch. Five-thirty-five would be the
number. I don’t know what the total number of Nobel Prize winners currently
DR. COLWELL: About 100.
MR. GINGRICH: A hundred. Okay. So they’d each
get a senator, and then non-Nobel Prize winners get the House members.
MR. GINGRICH: But what I’m suggesting in a quite
serious way, if you go back and you look at Vannevar Bush going to lunch with
Admiral Kane to convince him that it was useful to use science in defeating the
German submarine, personal contact, personal dialogue matter. You only need to
have 60 senators and about 260 House members. It should be possible to get that
number to understand how central to the future of the human race this is.
My theme, for example, with baby boom audiences is
simple. You have a shot at not having Alzheimer’s because we cure it, or one out
of three of you will probably have Alzheimer’s at 85. When you talk to your
congressman tell them, yes, you’d like more research money now, or no, you’d
rather wait until it’s too late.
MR. GINGRICH: I think we’ve got to find ways to
communicate that level of intensity and that level of reality about what we’re
Sixth. I think it’s really important for those of you
who can’t go do this to applaud and reward those who do. Whether that means you
find ways in your associations to recognize the best public scientist, whether
it means you find a way to make that a defined part of what universities’
faculties do, or however. But unless it becomes an acceptable thing to be a
public scientist, we will not be able to communicate the momentum we need and
the clarity we need.
Seventh. I believe we need very large-scale projects. I
think in fact going to the moon was useful, and if we had promptly gone to Mars,
the momentum would have been unimaginable. And I think that it’s important
partially to mobilize human imagination, to mobilize human interest. But it’s
also important because it forces you to be cross-disciplinary, and it forces you
to create capabilities you wouldn’t have had.
Without the International Geophysical Year, I don’t
know how much longer plate tectonics would have taken, but it could have been a
good while. Now I’ll give you just a couple of obvious examples. It is
clear to me that we ought to have a climatology project that is literally equal
to the challenge of Kyoto. And I’m trying to convince the Bush Administration
that, you know, when you learn, for example, again, just take two Washington
A year ago during a snow day which occurred because we
were six hours off in estimating when the storm would get here, on the same
front page, there was a story pointing out we had found a large effect in the
Pacific that seems to affect weather from China to the Sahara, and that we’ve
only known about it four two-and-a-half years and we don’t understand it very
And I wrote a letter to Lott and Hastert and Clinton at
that time saying, you know, if we’re talking about Kyoto and we’re talking about
all these decisions that may involve literally trillions of dollars of economic
impact, spending a couple of billion to actually understand climatology would be
a very rational minimal investment. NOAA in the current budget can’t possibly
design that kind of project, because they can’t even pay for keeping all the
buoys up to date today and keeping them from actually being reduced in number.
But as something for the community to suggest and to go
to the Congress and to say, you know, at a minimum first step, this
Administration ought to be proposing the climatological equivalent of the
International Geophysical Year. It ought to be worldwide. It ought to be the
right scale. It ought to be real time data. It ought to be the right kind of
It is doable now in a way that might not have been 25
or 30 years ago. That would be an example of the scale that I think we should be
engaged in. Let me also suggest — and by the way, if you went out and said to
people don’t talk about percentage increase. Tell me the opportunities in your
discipline which we should be pursuing, I think you’d be very interested to see
what would come up. And that’s why I describe an opportunities-based science
budget, which I really think is what OMB should confront first. Not the dollar
value, but the opportunity value. And then dollars ought to follow
opportunities, including an argument in the Congress and in the Administration.
Eighth. I believe — and this is my own bias — but I
really do believe that the projects ought to be inherently cross-disciplinary.
The fact is the universe is not divided into physics, chemistry, et cetera. The
universe tends to occur in a multidisciplinary way, and then be explained within
the framework of how faculty get tenure.
MR. GINGRICH: But I think it’s really important
for places like NSF to then bring back together getting people to work in
cross-disciplinary teams on a regular and routine basis.
Ninth, I think we have to transform — and I know this
word may get overused in the next few years, but it’s useful work. We need to
transform basic math and science education. We have managed to turn some of the
most exciting, interesting activities on the planet into sufficiently deadening,
boring activities that somewhere between 4th and 8th grade, we tend to lose an
amazing percentage of our potential scientists.
I just have three observations. First, we need to bring
scientists back into basic science education, and here I really commend the
National Science Foundation, which has taken a lead in this. We have too many
nonscientists teaching things they don’t know in ways that are inherently not
And we need to find ways to use the Internet, to use
broadband capability, to get scientists who are doing real research in touch
with young people so the excitement and the knowledge and the passion can begin
to be cross-fertilized.
Second, I think we need to create a new discovery
amateur science approach. It’s important to remember that Darwin was a beetle
collector. Darwin was engaged in the hunt for knowledge. He was not engaged in
the memorization of other people’s accomplishments. And I think far too much of
modern science is a process of learning what the Guild requires you to memorize
so you can get to a level where eventually maybe you’ll get a post-doctoral
I think what we need is the opposite. Fifth, 6th, 7th,
8th graders, whether it’s in nanoscale activities, whether it’s in single-cell
biology, there are an amazing number of things we don’t know that young people
can actively be engaged in helping with in ways that then get them into the
excitement of learning and the excitement of discovery, and that is totally
different than the current state curriculums tend to be.
Lastly, I think it’s very important to think of
classrooms as movie theaters. Think about the nature of our society. You can
produce the movie "Titanic" for about $200 million, but the second
copy is really cheap. But you have to have a studio system that produces the
$200 million. Or to use the most recent film to make an amazing amount of money
on the first weekend, "The Mummy Returns".
MR. GINGRICH: Now I say this because I am
convinced that one of our problems is we are almost like a system of movie
theatres where we have compulsory attendance so we don’t have to make very good
movies. And we don’t have any sense of aggregating capital to get the best. I
mean, if you went to Lucas and said, I’d like you to develop a way of
experiencing quantum behavior so we could have 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders involved in
virtual reality with haptic feedback and then see how excited they get.
And look at the total volume we now spend on games. If
the choice is a blackboard and a teacher being rational and slow versus
the new Microsoft game system or immersion in a $200 million movie, it shouldn’t
shock us that in fact we’re not as competitive. Although interestingly, schools
that have laptops that the kids take home are reporting a rising number of hours
spent on homework and a declining amount of television. Because suddenly the
kids have a competitive system that’s actually more intriguing than being a
passive observer. But I just want to suggest to you, if we could find a way to
start thinking about the studio theater model and to think about how could we
amass the capital to provide experiences that between virtual reality, haptic
feedback and other devices, literally put the kids into a different world of
knowledge, that we might have stunning responses over the next decade and find
ourselves very surprised at how many people break loose and think differently as
a result of the experience.
Lastly, what I’ve described may sound large and
strange. It may sound unrealistic, et cetera. I just want to suggest two books
and then my
own experience. There are two books out that those of you who are Democrats
ignore the topic of the books but think of them as an archetype to look at. Both
are about Reagan. One is by Mike Deaver. It’s only 223 pages long and it’s
called A Different Drummer. It’s really useful as a study of a visionary who was
cheerfully unconcerned about daily confusion. I mean, his portrait of Reagan
just wandering around the country steadily talking about the things he believed
in, how he did it, why he did it, is a fabulous study of a visionary.
But the second book, which is Reagan in His Own Hand,
is even more worth your looking at as scientists. It is the collection of
Reagan’s handwritten radio addresses in the ’70s. Reagan from 1975 to 1979 did a
daily radio address. He wrote them all himself in longhand. He edited them al1
This is a guy who once spent six consecutive radio
addresses on a speech by Eugene Rostow on SALT II. I mean, when you read these,
you’ll be startled, given the image you probably have in retrospect of how
simpleminded he was and how glib he was. These are very dense.
And the reason I suggest them is this. Reagan had a
deep, passionate belief that the America people could be educated. That they are
not stupid. They’re focused very heavily on their own lives. They’re focused
very heavily on their own realities. But I would suggest to you that from
fighting cancer to Alzheimer’s to better energy with less environmental impact
to a safer national defense to public safety to the capacity to create a new
generation of jobs that are totally different than anything we’ve ever seen, we
have more than enough stories to tell in science. They can be told in clear
English without being simplistic. And that if you read the Reagan speeches or
radio addresses and you think to yourself, if I had five minutes, what would I
tell people? How could I tell it in a language they’d understand?
Because my belief is that the adventure is just
My closing point is just this. Those of you who watched
my career. It didn’t seem possible to ever have a Republican majority. We had to
saying it was, and we had to keep trying. And if we hadn’t, there wouldn’t have
been. At the time that I became Speaker it didn’t seem possible to balance the
budget. When is the last time you saw an article about deficits?
I mean, this is a city where it is almost as easy to
get a very, very large win as it is to get a very small win. And I would argue
that if we have a coherent explanation of the expanding future of knowledge, if
we have a coherent explanation of the legitimacy of government’s role going back
to Jefferson and the Lewis and Clark expedition, if we have a clear explanation
of what needs to be done, that over a three or four or five-year period, the
country will coerce this city to do it.
Because the American people in fact in the end are
pretty smart. And they have a pretty good sense of the future, and they’re
basically optimists, and deep down they basically believe in science.
So I’m delighted to be here. If we have a couple of
minutes, I’ll take questions if that’s all right. Let me toss it wide open for
questions or comments or strong disagreements.
DR. KELLY: You don’t get the opportunity that
DR. RICHARDSON: How could we disagree?
MR. GINGRICH: I think I said of couple of things
that some of you might disagree with. Yes, sir?
DR. RIES: Mr. Gingrich, it’s relatively easy to
talk to congressmen about health, and of course, that’s been one of the secrets
of NIH’s success. You gave one example, the climatology example. Can you give a
few more examples of things that congressmen or senators might be positively
MR. GINGRICH: Well, there’s a report that the
National Science Foundation put out about a year ago on nanoscale science and
technology which lists like 70 topics. I’ll give you a couple of examples. The
potential to dramatically lower the cost of desalinization of water. Now I think
you could take that one that’s two pages in that report. I think you could take
those two pages and go down a list of about 60 members of the House and about 20
senators and have their attention in a heartbeat. The whole notion of toxic
waste cleanup using new kinds of approaches and new kinds of biologicals I think
is an area. You know, if you look at how much we’ve wasted on litigation on
toxic waste dumps. If we’d spent the same amount of money on research, they’d
all be gone. Much to the sadness of a number of trial lawyers, but still, it’s a
MR. GINGRICH: I would go through them, and if I
were in California right now I’d be talking about the potential kind of systems
in the near future. We’ve already got decentralized turbines. We have a variety
of breakthroughs. Somebody told me at Georgia Tech a year and a half ago that we
need about a factor of four breakthrough in solar power, and it’ll actually be
directly competitive with electric central generation. And that that is in fact
I think an order of magnitude improvement over where we were in 1975.
So I think it’s that kind of thing where you — I argue
two things. That all communication occurs in the mind of the listener. So you’ve
got to figure out where is the listener? And that’s where you start talking
And the second is that marketing is better than
selling. And the difference is, in selling, I’ve got a product that I’m making
and I’ve got to figure out why you ought to buy it. In marketing, I find out
what your need is and I go get a product that meets it.
And I think what you do literally is you sit down and
look at the array of science, the opportunities that are inherent, and then you
go almost, whether it’s a news media outlet or it’s a speech at a Rotary Club or
it’s a member of Congress, you start with three or four or five of these that
are fairly broad but that are very real. And I think you’ll be very surprised at
how many people there are available who won’t know. It’s the lack of knowing
about it that then begins to stimulate the real interest.
DR. GUSTON: Hi. I’m Dave Guston from Rutgers
University. In your talk you suggested that some particular kinds of investments
that could have great downstream impact would be wise ones to make and you
mentioned a climatology program that might parallel the IGY.
In the draft that we have before us today from the
National Science Board, Recommendation 2(b) is that Congress should develop an
appropriate mechanism to provide it with independent expert S&T review,
evaluation and advice.
Until 1995, the Congress had such a mechanism, the
Office of Technology Assessment. That was in some view a minor investment that
potentially important downstream consequences. If you had to do it over again,
would you allow OTA to have passed away? Would you support the re-creation of an
MR. GINGRICH: No. I would vigorously assist its
passing way. But I would have aggressively reached out to the National Academy
of Sciences to replace it. I think what we want is first-rate scientists talking
to members of Congress. We do not want congressional staff talking to staff to
develop a staff-driven document. That’s part of why those of us who didn’t like
OTA, which included people who were very pro-science, felt that it was the wrong
model. But I would very strongly argue in favor of the National Academy of
Sciences to Congress systematic relationship and the tasking of the National
Academy of Sciences to get first-rate scientists to provide first-rate
I just think you can get an amazing amount of
bureaucratic science which is not personally what I’m very interested in. In my
experience as a member of Congress, if you’re willing to call the scientists,
it’s amazing how many people would talk to you. And it’s amazing the quality of
information you’d get and the number people who would come in for dinner, as
opposed to, again, having people who are professional analysts who sit there and
go through their version of reality, which is often in my judgment a good half
step to a step behind the cutting edge of science.
DR. MILLER: Joe Miller from the National Science
Board. I just would be interested in your viewpoint about expanding the
discussion to state
legislatures. Most especially where there are large universities, research
universities. And it just seems that there’s an increasing in some cases
adversarial relationship between those legislatures where in fact they think
perhaps the whole of the state university is — he can repeat the question.
MR. GINGRICH: The question is, what should the
role be with state legislatures and particularly in states where you may have an
adversarial relationship? Well, my sense is that California has taken some steps
in the right direction in launching some research to those. But I wouldn’t just
pick on states that have good strong research models. I would also go to states
that don’t currently have good strong research models. And I think it’s very
straightforward. We are today in America about where Britain was in 1870.
Britain had for well over 140 years led the world in the Industrial Revolution.
And they were suddenly entering an era where you had to be an engineering
managerial society to be competitive. And they could not culturally make the
breakthrough. They had brilliant first-rate science, they had brilliant
entrepreneurs. But if you looked at the production of German and American
managers and engineers and you look at the relative standing of British
engineers and managers after 1870, they just can’t become a modern society. It
is still to this day a significant challenge in Britain, despite all the things
that have been done in the last 25 years.
I think we’re facing the same thing because my sense of
the scale of the scientific revolution in the next 25 years is that at the level
of nanoscale activities of quantum behaviors and of biology, the wave is going
to be so profound that if you are not in a position to have people who are first
rate looking at it, you’re just not going to be in the game. And so I would
argue for every state they ought to be looking at what does it cost us to
sustain a first-rate capability in science. And for every state I would argue
that from economics, from health, from your involvement in the world of
technology, if you don’t have a fairly strong — and I think Georgia, for
example, despite the fact that for a long time it was relatively poor and very
agrarian, the existence of Georgia Tech and the Georgia Tech research facilities
around the state really made a difference and is now really paying off in North
And I think that kind of approach is one I would
recommend to every single state in the country.
DR. BRANSCOMB: Louis Branscomb from Harvard. You
make a very strong and compelling case that the scale of scientific activities
in the future, larger projects, should be more visionary and bigger in scope and
that they should be interdisciplinary. That’s a very big challenge to the
executive branch, which tends to have a lot of turf wars among agencies and at
the moment a lot of vacancies in OSTP. Clearly calls for some strong leadership
there. But the biggest problem is the Balkanization of the committees of the
Congress. And I’ve been advised by former speakers and others that that’s
nothing anybody outside of Congress can do anything about. But it leads me to
question whether or not in perhaps compensation for some of the difficulties in
matching the committee structures to these broad programs, maybe there is a need
for some capability in the Congressional Budget Office to get a more profound
view of the big picture of the government science budget when in fact at the
front end of the budget process every budget year they are setting the totals
that get apportioned out by all the appropriations subcommittees. Is there a
possibility of doing something
there at CBO?
MR. GINGRICH: I think it should be done at CBO
and at the two budget committees. But it ought to be done parallel — and this
will get me in
some trouble I think with Dr. Colwell. But I mean it does seem to me you want to
have a much stronger science adviser looking at the totality of the executive
I mean, the kind of adviser where you could
realistically go to the president of Cal Tech or the president of MIT and say
this is a legitimate position for you to consider giving up this enormous
university to come and help shape the entire system.
And I think you need somebody who has a strong science
background who is in the room fighting with OMB every day. Because I agree with
you. What we’ve done is we’ve sort of shopped it out to lots of places. And the
fact is, we don’t have a large-scale overview.
And I’ll close with this. Because I didn’t come here to
suggest to you that I have very many of the answers. I have intuitions and
prejudices in favor of a general future. But here is my sense of it. The Second
World War was a remarkable moment of mobilization, partly because the Nazis were
so horrible that they drove an amazing number of scientists to our shore who
communicated with passion how serious it was to mobilize. And you had this truly
stunning mobilization, and you had a handful of people like Vannevar Bush who
were remarkably good at networking informally and getting things done very
rapidly and in ways that nowadays would lead to all sorts of hearings.
MR. GINGRICH: We then had a 45-year engagement
with the Soviet Union which sustained the sheer momentum. Although we to some
extent began to bureaucratize, we nonetheless had an enormous momentum of
research, and an enormous momentum of development.
I think that there are two challenges. One is we have
really bureaucratized in a lot of ways. We’re very good at peer reviewed,
relatively small grants, but it’s really hard for us now to launch really big
projects. Secondly, I think that we have become sort of comfortable with the
momentum we currently have.
And we argue at the margins about it. And Mikhail Roca
who is here can tell you, I mean, the scale of the opportunity in nanoscale
behavior alone is so enormous.
So in a sense, I’m not asking us to do better what
Vannevar Bush did. But I’m asking us to think about if people like that were
alive and wandering around today, how would they conceptualize this next wave
and how would they move us into that next wave and how would they informally
network it so it happened?
Now part of the reason I was frankly for getting rid of
OTA is to try to force the scientific community. Forget the staff-to-staff.
reports nobody read. You’ve got 535 members of the House and Senate to capture.
It’s a definable number. They’re obvious. They’re published.
They’re out there. They can’t hide from you.
And if you can get 260 in the House and 60 in the
Senate, you will change the world. And surely it should be possible for a
community as smart as our scientific community to take on a challenge like that,
to explain it in simple, compelling terms and to have five or six years from now
an $11 or $12 trillion NSF that is able to do the things it ought to be doing.
MR. GINGRICH: Thank you very much.
DR. KELLY: Well, now you know why we thought he
would be such an exciting — Newt would be such an exciting keynote speaker. We
really didn’t know beforehand he would advocate tripling the NSF budget, but
we’re pleased to hear that nonetheless.
A great start to this symposium. We are now going to
take a 15-minute break and come back and start the first panel. Thank you.
[End of presentation.]