Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Chief Operating Officer
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Inaugural Research Ceremony
Florida State University
April 14, 2000
I am delighted to be a part of FSU's inaugural Research
Recognition celebration. There is a sort of "rule
of thumb" about after dinner remarks to which I shall
adhere this evening. It advises that the more elaborate
the meal, the shorter the remarks. Now, aren't you
fortunate that we just enjoyed a grand and fulfilling
dinner? Otherwise, I would be up here for half an
hour or more talking to you. Given the combination
of the reception and the dinner, I will only try to
make a brief touchdown at the podium.
I want to heartily congratulate those who will be specifically
recognized here. But I strongly believe that very
good work comes out of places where the overall quality
is exceedingly high and the environment of excellence
has been created collectively. There is no question
that Florida State University is such a place.
During the period we know as the Renaissance, there
was a burst of creativity and discovery. Beginning
with art and the humanities, and then the sciences,
all fields burgeoned and flourished. Intellectual
and creative ferment traveled across the land. And
its special flavor was its holism, its connectedness,
renaissance genesis, like nature, knew no disciplinary
That same sense of fervor and excitement is replicated
in modern times on campuses like FSU. I am especially
impressed that your Council on Research and Creativity
spans the arts, humanities, and the sciences... just
as in the Renaissance. You are all fortunate to be
working in this lively and invigorating atmosphere
and each of you contributes to its continuance. And
so, in many ways, I congratulate the whole faculty
and administration at FSU.
Let me begin tonight with a comment by hockey great,
Wayne Gretzky. Even though we are at a latitude that
favors water skiing over ice hockey, I think we can
all relate to his remark because it holds true for
research as well as for hockey. He said, "I skate
to where the puck is going, not to where it's been."
Gretzky was telling us about his "studied anticipation."
As this audience knows well, "studied anticipation,"
vision, and foresight are important components of
research. It is, in a sense, "informed imagining."
In fact, Einstein was more forceful. He said, "Imagination
is more important than knowledge."
At NSF, we try to fund where the fields are going,
not to where they've been-a "studied anticipation,"
an "informed imagining." With the help of merit review,
NSF has been able to invest in insightful proposals
and visionary investigators across all fields of science
and engineering. Many of those investigators are here
at FSU and in the audience tonight. And, by the way,
our newest directorate, Social, Behavioral and Economic
Sciences is of increasing interest because of our
increasingly complex society-a trend which should
be of interest for your Council on Research and Creativity.
Just a quick snapshot of NSF's "institutional vision"
reveals, for example: that we funded investigators
that led us through a path of ongoing work in instrumentation
that advanced the development of MRI's and other imaging
systems; that the work and people we funded in atmospheric
chemistry identified ozone depletion over the Antarctic,
or the "ozone hole" as it has come to be known; that
in 1986, NSF-funded researchers established chlorofluorocarbons
as the probable cause of the Antarctic ozone hole.
Identifying people of vision and insight is our business.
These three examples provide just a glimpse at the
discovery whirlpool that NSF has kept in constant
motion for half a century. Describing them to you
is not just boasting. It is the strongest evidence
of the value of the Federal government's investment
and involvement in research and development. And,
as for boasting, I am sure that you all will join
me in bragging about the NSF-supported magnificent
National High Magnetic Field Laboratory under the
yeasty leadership of Jack Crow. In addition to its
elegant world class status, it is a wonderful example
of Federal-State partnership-an S&T policy area growing
interest at NSF.
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, learning, 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. Your own Ray Bye has
learned this lesson well in the DC trenches and affects
leadership for all of us in enhancing the continuing
evolution of this important national partnership.
The universities are the linchpins in this complex
process. They are the consistent and cohesive element.
The Federal government's role is as an enabler.
Research universities have masterfully integrated research
with the education and training of our next generation
This combination is special 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. And its result has been
to make the U.S. the most scientifically and technologically
advanced nation in the world today.
However, just as science and engineering have consistently
changed and enriched our world, the world of science
and engineering is also changing and being enriched
by a new sociology of scientific investigation.
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 the tools
of information technology have probably had the most
pervasive influence on what we are able to do in science
and engineering over the last two decades.
These tools have become the new infrastructure of science.
They allow us to achieve simultaneously both depth
in and reach across a research frontier. They have
enabled us to holistically view and tackle the panorama
of an open-ended challenge. They have provided an
understanding that is at the same time both unique
and universal. The new tools of science and engineering
reveal depth, complexity, vast distances, and unimagined
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. We find that as we penetrate the deepest levels
of complexity we often come to a path that leads us
to the overlap and integration of fields and disciplines.
This has helped create a change in the social dynamic
of science and engineering. Increasingly, researchers
and educators are engaged in collaborations outside
of their own disciplines.
And, increasingly, we also see the direct connections
of research and development to economic success and
long-term societal benefit. The Economist magazine
probably said it better than I can. They recently
"America gets more than half its economic growth
from industries that barely existed a decade ago-such
is the power of innovation, especially in the
information and biotechnology industries."
We are seeing the explosion of knowledge-based industries,
and that knowledge comes from your research at FSU
and from other university campuses.
The insight, vision, and "informed imagining" that
is so fundamental to your work also holds true for
much more than research in a world that is changing
before our eyes.
Recently, Danny Hillis, computer philosopher and designer,
who pioneered the concept of parallel computing, and
in 1996 became the vice president of research and
development at The Walt Disney Company, related this
incident from his past.
"I went to my first computer conference at the
New York Hilton about 20 years ago. When somebody
there predicted the market for microprocessors
would eventually be in the millions, someone else
said, 'Where are they all going to go? It's not
like you need a computer in every doorknob!"
Years later, Hillis went back to the same hotel. He
noticed that the room keys had been replaced by electronic
cards that you slide into slots in the doors. There
was, indeed, "a computer in every doorknob," as well
as sensors and actuators-and other hardware to make
the software sing.
Danny Hillis may have seen that future for microprocessors,
but right there in the midst of a computer conference
two decades ago that insight was in short supply.
That's probably why Danny Hillis is now head of R&D
for Walt Disney.
There is an important lesson hidden in this example
which is far more than just ironic or amusing. In
fact, there is a responsibility here for us.
Part of the explanation for very smart people making,
what in hindsight, are not very insightful comments,
is that, even as prognosticators, we tend to think
of what is in front of us but not what is also around
The future is never easy to "see." But the chances
of having good vision are much better if we pay close
attention to the larger context in which we work-the
sector, the society, and even the time in history,
the moment in civilization. Learning to read the larger
context gives us a path for imagining the future.
I think that this is particularly important for you
to convey to your students as their teacher, mentor,
and often role model. Learning "how to read the context"
is not an inherent skill for everyone. One of the
great values of a background in history is that you
learn the primary process of seeing events in the
larger landscape of the times.
In science, we know the significance of teaching the
scientific method as a process of analyzing and addressing
problems. The discovery of scientific knowledge is
just the beginning of a long societal process in which
that knowledge is incorporated into society. As researchers
we understand that the scientific method has value
that stretches far beyond the science in our lives.
Likewise, teaching our students how to read the context
in which they live and work is another important process
of seeing with anticipation, of envisioning the future,
so that more of them will see with the insight of
a Danny Hillis. They will also make better decisions
for their careers and for our society.
Our science and engineering majors need continued exposure
to societal context and the lessons it offers. As
educators, we need to present that larger perspective
so vital to making sense of complex issues.
Let me just scan through several elements of today's
context of which I hope students will be cognizant.
At first, they might seem elementary but they have
strong bearing on our insight and decisions.
... Since the end of the Cold War, the major organizing
principle in the nation has moved from national security
to the rush of economic competition.
... Technology-enabled service organizations predominate
in our economy, and partnerships among our various
sectors-public, private, and academic-are becoming
a routine and effective vehicle for addressing issues
and solving problems.
... The most talented and highly skilled workers in
every country comprise the modern phenomenon of a
global and mobile workforce. They can easily gravitate
to where the best jobs are located. But information
technologies have also made it possible for them to
stay home and yet work abroad.
... Higher education across the nation is facing information-age
transformations with virtual centers and institutes,
shared infrastructure, long-distance learning, and
a serious focus on the technical workforce. The future
portends even more.
... Today's composite of digital, electronic, optical,
and biotechnologies is reframing society as concept-driven,
knowledge-ridden, and cognition-enabled. We have yet
to see the ultimate impact. Our imagination takes
us beyond today's so-called Information Age to a Knowledge
Age, an Age of Cognition.
This would be the beginning of a context. I am sure
you have more and better ideas to add of your own.
As students learn the value of reading that larger
context, imagination allows them to envision projections
of a future from a comprehensive perspective, and
not from what they see just directly in front of them.
The disparate pieces of a context tell us nothing
in isolation, but they tell us many things in relationship
to each other.
These skills are important for all of us, not just
our students. Today the pace of change has accelerated
to the point where "yesterday's context" could be
irrelevant six months from now. The hyper-power of
information technologies routinely redesigns the economic
landscape. Advances in science and technology are
fueling much of this transformation but science and
engineering and the arts and humanities, are, in turn,
being continuously transformed, too.
When Alan Greenspan says in his studied, unemotional
"Something special has happened to the American
economy in recent years. ...a remarkable run of
economic growth that appears to have its roots
in ongoing advances in technology,"
you know we're having a revolution.
The President's proposal for a record setting R&D budget
comes not just in recognition of the power of science
and technology but also with the understanding that
there have been years of growing imbalances in the
nation's research portfolio.
On campuses like FSU where you generate so much fine
research, I'm sure there is great awareness of how
lopsided funding can become. The Administration's
budget is a strong effort to recognize that the research
enterprise in the nation cannot be effective if we
have a different "favorite flavor" each year.
The proposed budget begins to restore balance to the
R&D portfolio. As all of you probably know, an historic
increase has been proposed for the National Science
Foundation. This will help us in carrying out our
mission to keep all fields of science and engineering
on the furthest frontier. This will help all of you
to do the first rate work for which you are recognized.
Every field of research contributes to our national
strength in its own distinct way. And today, we are
increasingly aware of how each field can enlighten
and enhance other fields. Further, synergizing the
knowledge and skills of diverse disciplines and intellectual
cultures is a noble goal to pursue. A most important
reason to celebrate all of you here tonight.