"Capitalizing on the Connections:
Social Science in a New Era of Knowledge"
Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Chief Operating Officer
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
COSSA Annual Meeting
November 8, 1999
I am very pleased to be here this morning. COSSA and
NSF have been friends and partners for a long time.
We share common principles and values about science
and society. COSSA has also been one of the most steadfast
supporters on behalf of a strong federal science and
engineering budget. You have been expert at organizing
the research community as a voice for the value of
research and education for the nation.
We at the Foundation are most grateful and want to
publicly acknowledge our gratitude. Howard Silver,
in particular, has been a veteran organizer of so
many of those efforts, and we are all in his debt.
Because we seem to have entered the presidential political
season earlier than usual, we'll be bombarded with
political definitions for a protracted period. In
an effort to introduce clarity into that discussion,
I would offer Ambrose Bierce's distinction between
a conservative and a liberal. In his Devil's Dictionary,
he wrote, "A conservative is a statesman who is enamored
of existing evils, as distinguished from the liberal
who wishes to replace them with others."
Although the definitions from Bierce provide mostly
levity for our discussion, both suggest that we will
always need the work of social and behavioral scientists--maybe
now more than ever before. As an engineer, I know
that on any project or challenge, the greatest hurdles
are often "social" in nature, not technical.
Your work is critical to understanding how we function
as a social universe. You develop the body of knowledge
that explains how we - create - conflict - care for,
and compromise with, each other. Your work--directs
our economies. It helps us understand our past--and--it
charts appropriate decisions for our survival and
success as a planet and a population.
The knowledge of social scientists not only helps us
understand but also how to anticipate and plan.
We are quickly moving away from the historical era
of knowledge generated primarily through a funnel
of strictly defined disciplines. We are moving deeper
into an era where knowledge is increasingly created
through connections, collaboration, and overlapping
That's why your impact is growing throughout science
and engineering. Social scientists are a critical
component in all of those interconnections. We are
and always will be a social universe. You will
make us more adept and successful in our decisions.
Because of this, we are being asked for a new kind
of leadership. In order to generate the most useful
and comprehensive databases for the era of IT-driven
scholarship, the social sciences need a state-of-the-art
infrastructure. The underfunding of databases, high-speed
computers, and networking technologies have diminished
the more powerful impact that the social sciences
COSSA and NSF set to the task of addressing this issue
together. We finally hammered out a program, "Enhancing
Infrastructure for the Social and Behavioral Sciences,"--an
initiative of which we can all be proud. As most of
you know, NSF has just awarded six grants in the first
round of this program. This joint effort between us
will greatly enhance the social and behavioral science
Although this program is targeted to social science
participants, it should not be viewed in isolation.
It is part of NSF's strategic plan to build overarching
capabilities that span disciplines and integrate knowledge
None of us here today ever doubted the connection between
research and development and the nation's economic
success or long-term societal benefit. It is most
gratifying that other sectors, public and private,
are increasingly recognizing those connections. They
have sparked an illumination across the public policy
arena, industry, and small business. This recognition,
I'm sure, is partly responsible for the growing trend
toward partnerships and collaborations.
With total modesty, I can say that NSF's historical
contributions to our current societal advancement
and well-being are significant.
The Foundation, and the entire Federal R&D enterprise,
has had long and strong connections to our colleges
and universities. We have been partners in function
and spirit for decades.
Today, federal agencies, academic institutions, and
the private sector routinely seek each other out for
multi-partner collaborations for reasons just mentioned.
We have learned the effectiveness of integrating our
diverse strengths. But the working relationship between
federal R&D institutions and the academic research
community is an older bond.
It has operated effectively since well before others
came into the fold.
In the Federal R&D structure, NSF has a special focus.
We do not have a mission-oriented-research-objective
such as energy, oceans, biomedicine, agriculture,
Instead, we have the mission to support and fund the
underpinnings for all research disciplines, and the
connections between and among research disciplines.
Although the social and behavioral sciences at NSF
do not date back to our beginning, 50 years ago, we
are much enhanced with their inclusion in our task.
We look forward to a coming 50 years of even greater
At NSF, we have a distinct set of responsibilities.
It is our job to keep all fields of science and engineering
focused on the furthest frontier, to recognize and
nurture emerging fields, to support the work of those
with the most insightful reach, and to prepare coming
generations of scientific talent.
In marking our 50th anniversary in the year
2000, we are celebrating vision and foresight. NSF
has a strong record across all fields of science and
engineering for choosing to fund insightful proposals
and visionary investigators.
In five decades of funding discoveries across all
disciplines, one can observe a consistent beam of
new light in established fields and pathbreaking steps
opening to emerging fields.
Let me mention just a few brief examples.
Our ongoing support for instrumentation advanced the
development of MRI and other imaging systems.
NSF-funded research in atmospheric chemistry identified
ozone depletion over the Antarctic, or the "ozone
hole," as we now know it. And in 1986, NSF researchers
established chlorofluorocarbons as the probable cause
for the ozone deterioration.
NSF funded-research on solid modeling led to the widespread
use of Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing.
The keys to success in this instance were advances
in the underlying mathematics and in being able to
link the academic and industry leaders in the field.
All of you know that we have funded many of the Nobel
Laureates in economics before they won the Nobel.
These are just a few but very powerful examples of
the value of the Federal government's investment and
involvement in research and development.
The unique role of NSF is buttressed and enhanced by
the diversity of the other Federal R&D agencies, and
the network of national laboratories.
Together they represent a universe of discovery and
innovation that is the envy of the world. That success
has always hinged on the interrelationships
and connections between the federal R&D structure
and our nation's universities.
The universities are the linchpins in this complex
process. They are the consistent and cohesive element.
The Federal government should be an enabler.
In our research universities, we have masterfully integrated
research with the education and training of our next
generation of scientists and engineers.
This combination is unique to the American system and
has created a synergy throughout our national research
enterprise. The wisdom of this approach has been borne
out over time.
Just as science and engineering have consistently changed
and enriched the world, the world of science and engineering
is also changing and being enriched by a whole new
approach in conducting research. Although I might
be taken to task by the sociologists in the room,
I would call this change the "new sociology of
This recent change has been driven by many forces,
including the end of the Cold War and the subsequent
globalization of the world economy.
But information technologies have probably had the
most pervasive influence on what we are able to do
in science and engineering over the last two decades.
These technologies have become the new infrastructure
of science. They allow us to achieve simultaneously
both disciplinary depth in a research problem and
functional understanding across a variety of disciplines
underlying most of today's intellectual issues.
In other words, they have enabled us to view and tackle
the panorama of a problem. They have provided an understanding
that is at the same time both unique and universal.
With these new capabilities, we are discovering that
at the most intricate and intimate level of all fields
there is a connection, a powerful binding to each
other. That makes all the more important the new initiative
that COSSA and NSF have developed for state-of-the-art
infrastructure in the social sciences.
The human presence and activity on our planet has been
one of the most powerful influences, not all of them
positive. We desperately need the strong in-put from
the social sciences to help us provide a compatible
future on the planet. Clearly, the key to a successful
future will be knowledgeable and compassionate human
response and behavior.
The new infrastructure initiative for social science
will advance opportunities for social scientists to
expand collaborations outside of their own disciplines.
We will need all of you.
The age of IT offers great possibilities. It also opens
the field for some unwanted societal divisions. We
will depend heavily on the social and behavioral sciences
and their diversity of knowledge to help us navigate
a successful path.
I mentioned earlier that our academic institutions
are the crucial component in our very successful national
research enterprise. And, the federal R&D agencies
have been major enablers in the process.
In spirit and in function that collaboration is stronger
today than ever before. However, if we examine the
dollars, we observe a different story.
The overall trends in R&D funding have changed dramatically
and in a sense are running counter to our partnership
and to the nation's economic needs. Let me elaborate
with some specifics.
The nation's current total investment for R&D, for
both public and private sectors, is just over $240
billion dollars. That figure appears ample, even generous,
and in fact, it is the highest it has ever been in
our nation's history.
But when we scrutinize that number and break it down
into its components, we find some disquieting signs.
The federal government has been losing ground to industry
as a source of R&D funds.
For example, in 1998, the federal government provided
just over 25 percent of that $240 billion dollars.
That percentage represents the lowest level since
we started collecting data in 1953.
A decade ago, the federal share was 46 percent. Three
decades ago, the federal share was 60 percent. One
could respond, "not to worry." As long as the total
amount remains substantial, what does it matter from
which pot the money comes. It turns out that it matters
a great deal.
You may be familiar with the now-famous study by Dr.
Francis Narin and his colleagues at CHI Research.
It was featured in the National Science Board's Report
on industry links to publicly funded research.
The study demonstrates the strong link between industry
patents granted in the U.S. system and research published
in the scientific literature.
The conclusion is clear: the knowledge that drives
innovation in industry comes predominantly from publicly-supported
research. More importantly, this trend is increasing
Juxtapose this with another piece of data. Over the
past two decades, employment in science and engineering
fields has more than doubled and continues to increase.
And, high technology products have doubled as a share
of total U.S. trade.
Armed with these data, we can clearly see that all
money is not the same. Where it comes from, and where
it goes, makes all the difference. We may not be paying
attention to some very important signals for the nation's
long term prosperity.
I am not suggesting that industry's investment should
be lessened. In fact, it's very important. We are
an economy based on knowledge.
What I'm pinpointing is that the funding trend is moving
in the reverse direction of what is fueling much of
our success and prosperity.
The nation and the community are most fortunate to
have members of Congress and Congressional staff that
are strong supporters of R&D, and NSF in particular.
Two of those staff members are next on the agenda.
They were very much responsible for the excellent
outcome of the NSF appropriation.
But we the research community are responsible for the
extended outlook for R&D and the benefits that will
accrue to the nation. We must continue to make the
case for what is real value in the contributions from
R&D. I am reminded of Neal Lane's clarion call to
become "civic scientists." More of us must take up
that task as our own.
COSSA has been especially significant in leading that
charge. We will need your continuing leadership. We
are continuously appreciative of the many knowledgeable
and articulate Members, staff, scientists, and engineers
who can articulate the connections between new knowledge
and new national growth. We still have many challenges
to meet. I look forward to working with all of you.