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Color image of DNA strand NSB Chair Barnard - NSF Director Waterman
The National Science Board - A History in Highlights, 1950-2000
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A Science Advisor for the President, a Defense Role for NSF?

Just as contentious as the matter of who should serve as the Foundation's Director was the question of whether there was a need for a White House science advisor. Early in the Board's tenure, Wall Street banker William T. Golden became President Truman's consultant on the question of how to mount another major research effort if the Korean hostilities accelerated into a third world war. In late 1950 and early 1951, Golden discussed with scientific leaders in and out of government, including the Board, the idea that the President should have a science advisor.

Financial support for research serves a double purpose: Acquisition of scientific knowledge and development of scientists. Chester I. Barnard, Board Chair (1951-1955) At its second meeting on January 3, 1951, the Board opposed Golden's notion of a science advisor because that job would entail national policy advice as well as the coordination of government research, including defense research-responsibilities the NSF Act had granted to the Foundation. Ironically, Board Chair Conant did not think the tiny Foundation should activate its defense role, but "things just snowballed" at the meeting because Executive Committee Chairman Bronk, whom Board members overwhelmingly supported for the Director's job, said he would not consider the position if the Foundation did not exercise its full powers. Thus, in order to keep Bronk a candidate for Director, the Board went on record opposing the science advisor plan.

Soon afterwards, Bronk met with the trustees of Johns Hopkins, who doubted he could be president of NAS, director of the new Foundation, and president of their university all at once. Bronk took himself out of the running for Director. The science advisor question would arise again later, but for the moment the Board, at its third meeting in February 1951, took the opportunity to issue a statement that the Foundation would not, after all, activate its defense role.

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