Reagan adviser Keyworth on administration's science policy
Washington — George A. Keyworth II, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and science adviser to President Reagan, is articulate in presenting the administration's view. Following are extracts from a 1984 Monitor interview. Importance of basic research
``Basic research is funded primarily by the government for a very good reason -- because who else is going to do it? And, also, over the years it has paid off, and, [not only] in absolutely unpredictable fashion, but also in an absolutely unpredictable huge way. And as time evolved, and it has evolved, I think we have felt that it was essential to do two things -- which was to sustain the government's role in basic research and, more importantly, to strengthen it -- because we are entering an era of even greater dependence on technology. And basic research is the absolute base.
``. . . But we also have tended to forget something. And that is our talent. Scientists and engineers are trained in an environment of basic research. And that environment is the reason why we have trained better talent than any other nation in the world. And that happens to be why students from all over the world come to study in American schools.'' Importance of high-energy physics
``I'm not going to argue that elementary particle physics is the path to a more successful IBM. Elementary particle physics is certainly as creative a field of science as there is, if not perhaps the most creative field of science. It has traditionally trained at the very edge of creativity in this country and in other countries. I think it is absolutely essential to maintain vitality and leadership in that field. And, by the way, you will see that elementary particle physics has been enormously supported in this administration to the extent that we are right now pursuing the earliest R&D stages of a multibillion-dollar superconducting supercollider [next generation particle accelerator]. That is a field pursued purely for its creativity.'' Military research
``Defense is off by itself. It has a job to do. In contrast to what many people think, you don't spend on defense according to wishes of the defense community. You spend on defense according to the challenges that you face from adversaries. If the Soviet Union builds and builds and builds, we are forced to respond. And that's what we are doing right now. We discuss defense R&D in one environment. We discuss nondefense civilian R&D in a completely different environment. It's the difference between the National Security Council and the Cabinet system, for example.'' Restricting nonsecret research
``What you are addressing is a single issue looked at from two very different perspectives. On the one hand, the Defense Department sees that every single step the Soviets take in developing a new weapons system is based upon a prior step taken in the United States. And they are correct in that observation. On the other hand, probably the strongest leg in this nation's stool, if you wish, or as strong a foundation as we have, is our own unquestioned leadership in science. And to me, the big problem we face today in confronting new challenges like Japan is that we are not very good at moving that science from the laboratory to the market place. That's the technology transfer thing I'm concerned about. Now, if we constrain our universities, and the creative environment in which we train our talent, then I believe we will threaten that very strong leg I referred to. The President himself commented that nothing would be done to constrain the creative environment in our universities.'' Outside science advisers
``There have been a lot of discussions over lack of a PSAC -- that old President's Science Advisory Committee. Our White House Science Council [reporting to Dr. Keyworth] is quieter and, perhaps, a lot more credible, because many of the more monumental recommendations that they make are made as a quiet advisory body, not as a constituency.'' -- 30 --