III. MAJOR FINDINGS AND ISSUES
The Board's preliminary findings are based on an intensive two-year study including review of the literature on Federal budget coordination and priority setting for science and engineering research, invited presentations from and discussions with representatives of OMB, OSTP, the Federal R&D agencies, Congressional staff, high level science officials from eight foreign governments, experts on data and methodologies, and industry and academic spokespersons. Discussions focused on research priority setting as it is practiced within government organizations and suggestions on how the process might be improved. After considering this information, the Board finds that:
Appropriate Scientific Advice
The scientific community can contribute to the Federal budget process as it now does within departments, agencies and programs, by providing:
At the Federal level, advice on priorities for major research facilities is an area for particular attention. Facilities costs must be estimated and include long- term commitments for operation and maintenance. In addition, consideration must be given to tradeoffs to enable funding for priority facilities.
Alignment of the research budget advice and data with the Congressional budget process is essential if it is to be useful in Congressional allocation decisions.
Improved Data and Analysis
Allocation decisions should be informed by available data and should employ a range of methods of analysis and data sources. Over the long term there is a need for improvements in data, methods, and analyses that track Federal funds and measure the costs and benefits of research. Needs include:
Toward an Enhanced Process
The analytical and expert support available to inform research budget decisions need to be strengthened in both the Congress and the White House. A primary resource that would provide immediate benefits to decision makers is a broad-based, continuous capability for expert advice to both OMB and Congress during the budget allocation process. A longer-term need is the regular, systematic evaluation of the effectiveness of Federal investments in achieving Federal goals for research through OSTP. Complementing both are improved data and analysis on research opportunities and needs that trace Federal research investments through the budget process and beyond.
Strengthening the Federal mechanisms to inform research budget allocation decisions in the White House would add an important dimension to current mechanisms for scientific advice, which feature agency and department-based external and internal scientific input as part of their budget deliberations. It would require additional staff resources in OSTP and perhaps in Congress. Furthermore, investments in data systems and in academic research on the relationship between publicly funded research and economic and social benefits would enable improvements in methods for measuring and estimating returns on public investments. The payoff would be a more effective system for allocating Federal research funds to contribute to national goals, and improved tools for measuring and communicating the benefits of Federal investments to policy makers and the general public.
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