Charles Lathrop Parson Award, Washington, D. C.
December 3, 1976
Each of the eight members of the American Chemical Society who received the Parsons Award since Charlie Parsons first got it 24 years ago has emphasized that he was acting mostly as an agent for his associates, in some mode or other in which they had enabled him to work for the public service. I am therefore especially grateful that in this Centennial year of our Society and as our Nation begins its Third Century, I can claim to be but a delegate, a mediary of the whole national chemical community and especially of the more than one hundred thousand members of the professional group that Charles L. Parsons strengthened so memorably. For I report to you briefly now on ways we see for chemistry and chemists further to support our national destiny of peace and freedom.
These ways are of course indicated by the past quarter-century of participation of scientists and engineers in our Federal Government, in the efforts to enable the precious process of discovery, invention, teaching, learning and enhanced productivity to coexist with, and even benefit from, the compelling public demands for national security, health and welfare, economic and material progress, and at least a measure of personal independence and freedom.
For we have earlier heard, at these gatherings honoring Charlie Parsons, some major episodes of science and technology in public affairs. These ranged from the normalization and new hopes following World War II (Conant 1955) through the cold war's ominous realities (R. Adams 1958), on to a wise national reaction involving science and technology in the White House (Kistiakowsky 1961). Then, it was seen that both national defense in the missile era and national resources for energy had a common base, nuclear fusion, partly built by a great chemist and his associates (Seaborg 1964). This was followed by a broadening of PSAC-OST into domestic matters (Hornig 1968) and a time of uneasy internationalism (Noyes 1970), although not true peace (Price 1973). Likewise, more recently, science and engineering have been even more, enmeshed in ecology, economy and energy at home (Peterson 1974). So in a fashion that would have delighted eight that contemporary man, Charlie Parsons, your eight Parsons' events have steadily shown the astute feeling of the AGS officers and committees for how science sought to serve the times.
Now we are at a new stage, and it is no wonder with that scenario that to sustain the things which have been done, as well as those yet undone but strongly upon us, require no less than all the people and practices of the American Chemical Society, indeed of our national community of scientists and engineers. That is why in December of 1972 and in January of 1973, it became evident that the structure of Federal science and technology, as it had progressed so well in the White House between 1957 and 1972, a decade-and-a-half of historic actions, had become impractical for the particular circumstances of that time. The conventional reaction, indeed used even in the past year for certain offices, would have been to oppose bureaucratically the removal of the office. It is why a drastically different course was forwarded, through the transient “super Cabinet” structure of the President, through particularly Mr. Kenneth Dam and Dr. George Shultz and their associates, and was accepted by the President. This course was that mostly specific, perhaps elite, program analysis and advising were no longer adequate. This mode had worked well in the times of the missile and space challenges, and even was useful as science and technology were settling in as major fiscal elements of public health, education, and non-military technology. But eventually energy, transport, housing, as well as in Commerce, Interior, and others reflected needs for the future. These, to be met required that a much more extensive involvement of the national community had to be assured. The force of this idea is indeed seen in the broad present missions of the Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs, and Director of the Domestic Council, skillfully done by Mr. Jim Cannon.
How this was done is already part of the record. This includes extensive hearings of the Congress following the Administration' s, and especially the Vice President' s,1975 proposals for creation of an Office of Science and Technology Policy as part of the present “Presidential Science and Technology Advisory Organization Act of 1976, Public Law 94-282.” Many wise and able sponsors of science and technology in the House and Senate and their astute staffssuch as particularly Mr. Ellis Mottur, now Program Manager in Director Mim Daddario's important Office of Technology Assessment, worked out the passage of this Act of 1976. This mechanism, which is getting along now, following adoption in the Executive Branch late last spring, is of course the operational side of a new level of involvement of the public in pursuit of Federal and other Governmental science activities. But we should also pay especial tribute to the invaluable role of Guy Stever, acting as Special Assistant, and his associates in the NSF, such as Dr. Kent Wilson (Chem.) Dr. Tom Jones, and Dr. Robert Hughes. These officers demonstrated the vitality of our earlier idea that Federal science and technology could flourish even away from 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue. What is yet too little discussed, and what must be the basis for the new strengths visioned in these public actions, is the role of the national community of scientists and engineers, and of the substance of modern science and engineering in achieving national progress.
Particularly, we must adapt to new opportunities in which the pluralism of our scientific and engineering resources, throughout independent education, research, industry, and individual careers, interacts with the multiple, pluralistic forms of Government through many arteries of the national organism. This is better than depending on some monolithic central initiative and control. The trends, of course, in most elements of society have been toward the latter. (Indeed recent chances to reduce massive central Government seem to have been rejected by the electorate.) Nevertheless, we must maintain a strong position of our scientific and engineering population, to insist on pluralism and freedom to pursue many courses and methods of action. [We] must avoid increasing pressure of centralized Government to cause scientist to adapt rather than to initiate and provide possibilities.
In view of that philosophy, should we nevertheless expect major new national initiatives to come from scientists and engineers directly? Or do we have increasingly to settle for a layered bureaucracy, in which we may be able to exercise the necessary pluralism of innovation and discovery only through indirect initiative and through complex layers of review approval, re-review, and political elaboration?
The American Chemical Society appears strongly to affirm this first position. Namely, in a study of the council Policy Subcommittee on Long-Range Planning, chaired by Robert B. Fox, the various segments of the Society were queried about, “what two areas of activity do you believe to be the most critical to the Society in the next ten years?”, and “in order of priority what five areas of Society do you believe will be the most critical to the Society in the next ten years?” Discussions of the Committee on Chemistry and Public Affairs with the esteemed, indeed indispensable, staff leadership of Steve Quigley led to a proposed response of last September(1976) in which, with respect to the first question, of the two areas of activity most critical in the next ten years, were identified as:
1. Use of chemistry for the public welfare:
a. Interaction with decision makersCongressmen, federal, state, and local government officialson issues involving the role of chemistry.
b. Maintain membership dialogue on these public issues.
c. Application of membership expertise to the solution of public problems.
d. Maintain the credibility of the Society with policy makers and the public.
2. Inform legislators, the public, and chemists of the impact of chemistry.
Now clearly these issues are close to the philosophy we've been developing since 1973, about the new basis for national science and technology policy as a whole, and the way the newly legislated mechanisms should function.
Further, on the second question, of what priority should be given to five areas of Society activity being most critical in the next ten years, a proposed response noted:
1. Evolution of programs for interaction with political leaders and government officials.
2. Involvement in the solution of public problems.
3. Maintenance of viable publication and information programs,
4. Promotion of professional and economic welfare of chemists.
5. Recruitment of members.
6. Revitalization of Local Sections.
The first four goals here again relate closely to the White House Office and national policy matters which we have noted. So apparently already the American Chemical Society and its representation of the national chemical community is favoring a broader representation in initiatives for science and technology.
These issues will of course range over organizational reform, including the old questions of a Department of Science and Technology in the Cabinet or a Department of Energy. They will extend through the questions of information handling, technology assessment, regulation, technology transfer and utilization, Federal, State and industry cooperation, and liaison, manpower, planning and technology. They reach right on to substantive issues of food production, distribution and use, climate modeling and prediction, identification of broad issues in public health, including especially nutrition, the responses to the recent important studies of conservation and raw material shortages, our actions on natural hazards, especially earthquake early warning, and, of course, the needed applications of technology in transportation and housing.
So presumably national initiatives in science and engineering sponsored or affected by the Federal Government will now be related to the new Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House, established by this legislation of 1976. Particularly, the President’s Committee on Science and Technology created in Title III of that Act, to function for a period of 2 years, will be especially concerned with how the organizations of the Federal Government relate to activities in research and development, in engineering science and technology throughout the Nation. Dr. Ramo and I have called one public organization meeting of this group to be followed on December 16th with a working session in which certain of the 60 some issues which our precursor committees submitted to the Science Office prior to their termination last summer. Those issues cover what are considered to be the principle. scientific. and technical needs and opportunities of the present and relatively new future. They will be reported publicly in an organized grouping shortly. Strikingly, they depend in a majority of cases for successful resolution on progress in chemistry, and its close derivatives such as materials science.
While of course that committee serves at the pleasure of the President and reports directly to him with close collaboration of the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (or the alter ego Special Assistant, ) there is nevertheless a new opportunity for the national community of science and engineering to be directly involved in the next stages of Federal planning and programs. For it is our intention in that Committee to implement the principles of widespread expert participation through the hierarchy of the National Academies, their affiliates to the National Research Council and, especially, the scientific and engineering societies of the Nation. Here we shall be able to associate a new diversity and especially new generations of talent in the wide new fields of chemistry and other science.
What we report today is that it is still possible and certainly essential for science and technology to generate directly new national initiatives. Further, it is a condition of modern chemistry to have a special role and responsibility for such action.
The idea that chemistry would emerge as a special and versatile ingredient of new national initiatives was had some years ago. Thus, it was noted in a Priestley talk a decade ago that new chemistry “now the embodiment of molecular theory, is becoming the conceptional element in much of modern science and technology.” It was noted then that chemistry was developing into a special link between physics and applied mathematics, on the one side, and the behavior of complex, often living, bio systems, on the other, in ways which are sure to involve it in most of applied science and engineering.
This has happened even more dramatically than was postulated in that report. It has, accordingly, even larger implications for future initiatives in the national interests. Thus, let us look briefly at significant evidences, perhaps starting in the mid-century period but easily related to present and end-of-century potentialities. For instance, the production of synthetic rubber at an annual rate of more than 750, 000 tons within two years after the technical program was fully launched marked major integration of chemical scienceorganic kinetics, structure, physical chemical propertieswith engineering of integrated raw material and fabrication systems. From the petrochemical to the tire (or tank tread), the chemical and rubber industries set a new pace of innovation and creativity soon paralleled by chemical company roles in nuclear materials and systems, in enterprises extending right up to the present. Starting also in that period of post-War renewal, we felt that similar solid state, polymer, and chemical processing ventures could be extended in other vital fields of both national security and economic capability, that of electronic communications and automata. The history of solid state electronics, launched by the transistor, propelled by the solar cell, the laser and modern superconductors, may be giving hints of the future. There are such possibilities as understanding nerve impulses, self-regulation and transport properties in biopolymeric matter, and the essence of nitrogen fixation. These and similar advances are reasonable if we are to realize the bold expectations and endeavors of chemistry and its adjuncts.
Energy conversion is a most current needauthoritatively and eloquently expressed by Congressman Mike McCormack and his associates. An interesting example of what chemical and materials. initiatives can do in even the ancient but most honorable case of the Pb-acid electric storage battery is seen in our recent experience at Bell Laboratories.
But there are specially subtle phases of this saga which deserve accent today, lest they be lost in the quick changes of cast and context in which they arose. For instance, it was not, accidental that in the late Fifties, when grave threats to our national security, by the demonstration of intercontinental missiles and spacecraft by hostile powers, were wisely recognized, certain special features of chemical science and technology were accented. We worked in the President's Office, with cooperative members of the Congress, to draft the National Defense Education Act of 1958, especially sponsored by Senator Hubert Humphrey. It was agreed with him that enhanced availability of scientific and technical knowledge through information dissemination programs would be a special goal. The National Science Information Council (now about to be recreated) was legislated then. The first chairman immediately implemented a widespread program to build on to the base of Chemical Abstracts and other chemical publications broadly, as already well begun by the chemical community. This lift to the literature was partly enabled by the profoundly important common language about matter, energy, and its conversions that chemistry had cultivated. Likewise the first report of the President's Science Advisory Committee when it was taken into the White House by President Eisenhower, was “Improving the Availability of Scientific and Technological Information in the United States” by a task force chaired by a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee who also chaired the Science Information Council. Quickly thereafter and without interruption today (except for some disarray about some charges by the U.S. Postal Service) this vital capability of organizing and spreading knowledge has been advanced in our Nation in ways admired worldwide. There have been many enhancements, such as the notable National Academy Study COSMAT, led by a distinguished chemist Robert Cairns (whose October 14, 1976 message for the second century underscores this theme). But the common language and organization of information in which our science has been so active now becomes intrinsic in the over-all progress of our Nation. For we must heed a new era. According to the work of Porat noted earlier about to be released from the Commerce Department, we have now become in effect an information-driven economy. Thus more than half of our national gross product (as of a year or so ago) is provided by the very kind of information handling, communication processing and service organization which the science and technology of chemistry helped to advance.
But immediately also in this period, other qualities of the basic role of chemistry as a systems science came out. We were pressed to create counter forces to Soviet missile and space systems. An exciting province of technique was involved to protect the war heads of missiles re-entering the earth's atmosphere, and the space vehicles being recovered from orbit. These shields, whose weight and shape critically affected performance, as durability affected delivery, were left to aerodynamics engineers and occasional refractory materials consultants until the National Academy of Sciences /National Research Council Materials Advisory Board created a small panel. This included also Dr. Games Slayter (the inventor of fiberglass) Dr. Hans Thurnauer (an expert in ceramic substances). We set out to see whether a copper alloy, and more likely beryllium heat shields which were regarded as essential, were the only and right choices. Because of recent research done prior to this study, it was possible to establish that the chemical dynamics of an atmospheric 7,000° F., to which re-entering vehicles would be exposed, operated on certain organic polymeric structures to cause transformations with high electronic excitation and energy absorption. These could lead to carbonized matter of adequate strength and stability. Now all heat shields and satellite vehicle protections are made with such ablating systems.
But also the remarkable strength and rigidity of the polymer carbon thus generated is leading to new materials, families of composites of unsurpassed strength, rigidity and durability. So by the next decades or century end, we may look for factories with significant parts of their valves, ducts, reactors, and many moving parts made of such polymer carbon fiber composites.
We have earlier mentioned also that mid-century systems sciences and technologies of both automata and electronics received large support as well from chemistry, applied and used in principal components to make films of oxides to yield essential controlled chemical transport. Indeed, while the integrated and microelectronics movement is still in full force and will presumably be the base of growth in the hardware and facility side of the information service based Gross National Product to which we referred, we should also stress that chemistry is becoming a larger and larger method of fabrication and production. Thus, in a new factory at Richmond, Virginia, of our own Western Electric Company, and those of many of our largest contemporaries in the field of electronics circuitry, information processing machines and communications, the operations are viewed as like in a chemical plant. These chemical sequences, which may involve dozens of operations in series, are highly automated.
They show a pattern of precision, purity and economy for what may spread, in the coming decades, to all kinds of manufacture, from carefully engineered slow-release drugs using transport phenomena and transistor-like purity of organic reagents, through to “chemical assembly,” by reactions in situ of home equipment, parts of vehicles, energy conversion and conservation schemes, food packaging and processing. It may seem like a long step between films a few thousand picometers thick in integrated circuits to the protection and process convenience of safe, non-additive and non- allergenic foodstuffs. (Useful effects may also be found even in textile products.) But we will venture to believe that chemical systems science and technology will make this transition from one process to another. And indeed the discoveries of dislocations, imperfections and whisker-like structures in thin sections of matter are now leading to controlled mechanics, electronics and presumably soon certain elements of chemical bonding manipulation (such as regulated catalysis) in these same films. By chemical synthesis and purification of some single crystals, we are at last approaching the theoretical cohesive strength of matter.
Again, the role of the common language of chemistry in the way it has been organized and processed, especially through the good works of the American Chemical Society, has been felt also in the software or operational, as compared to the mechanical or device, side of our national information resources. Thus, pursuant to the nationwide work of the first Science Information Council, through the Liaison Committee for Science and Technology of the Library of Congress (1963-73), the Board of Regents of the National Library of Medicine (1969-73), the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (1971-75), as well as the ongoing Committee of the White House Science Office (COSATI) and its successor, in the National Science Foundation (OSIS), constantly improved methods of literacy and bibliography have been pursued vigorously. In our MEDLARS and related programs of the National Library of Medicine, now linked also to programs of the National Cancer Institute and the National Cancer Advisory Board, the American people are having, through the biomedical networks, vast access to the newest and most useful information for health and the relief of pain. The pharmaco-chemical knowledge of optimal drugs' sequences can now be applied by appropriate dosage and symptom feedback information, between centers of development of such therapy, and the local attending physicians and medical centers. Again, what might have seemed disparate technologies have important overlaps.
With respect to national initiatives, none may be more compelling than improvement of our energy resources. No one in this assembly needs to be reminded of the involvement of chemistry in all such effortsfrom the established light-water nuclear reactors, right through to coal combustion principles, liquefaction and shale oil recovery. But perhaps we should note that from the beginnings of President Nixon's Energy Research and Development Advisory Council of the Energy Policy Office, 1973, we have promoted ways to associate the large national community of chemical skills, possessed by the more than one hundred thousand members of this Society, into energy enhancement. We shall be extending some of the tactics that were used in a smaller scale with such effectiveness in the Synthetic Rubber coordination more than three decades ago.
Yet another way, as it has happily turned out, by which chemistry has supported initiatives in science and technology was through the results of proposals of March 1965 of President Charles C. Price, who proposed to form a committee “to work actively on issues of public policy related to chemistry.” While it is noted also in the book “A Century of Chemistry” (H. Skolnik - K. M. Reese, 1976) that the ACS has a long history of activities in advising the Government and performing other public services, the work of the new Committee on Chemistry and Public Affairs has taken a larger turn. It has been skillfully staffed by a group led by Steven Quigley. It has altogether represented a membership and atmosphere built on the expanding role of chemistry and chemists in this mid-Century era.
The first major result of this new objective dealt with an impending national issue, before the Government's and public's efforts were really underway. Thus it was possible in the report “Cleaning Our Environment: the Chemical Basis For Action” to sort out early and emphatically what was known and unknown about the whole complex system of air and water around our planet. In this way, futile objectives, fallacious controls and fictitious standards were considerably suppressed, when the public action began. Unfortunately Federal actions on such perturbations of the environment as auto and power plant emissions we re not so well modulated in their early stages.
But the Committee on Chemistry and Public Affairs has consistently exhibited the conscience, as well as the content, of chemistry and national initiatives. Thus in many phases of its important ventures, a strong base is now being built for forthcoming decisions by our Government. For instance, the notable work on Chemistry in the Economy led by Dr. Milton Harris is both a policy and pedagogic guide to politicians. For they must face now whether independent industry and enterprise will be allowed to invigorate our national economy or whether it will be suppressed by regulation and antitrust excesses.
Thus this part of chemistry, and of the chemical community, has already begun work on what has been recently requested at the General Assembly of the International Council of Scientific Unions in Washington. This assembly calls for the usual attention to world problems such as food supply, environmental control, materials and energy supply, arms control and nuclear proliferation. According to the panel chairman who presented it, Dr. Lewis Branscomb (described as “a leading science advisor to Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter”) the advances will “depend strongly on the involvement of scientists and engineers with the social and political institutions that determine the use of technology.” While the panel goes on to urge the establishment of new “problem oriented institutions for scientific and policy research,” it appears that the initiatives already resident in the activities we have cited, in which chemistry and its affiliated fields concentrate on knowledge rather than policy inputs to national leaders, is likely to be an alternate strategy. At least, it is. an important supplementary approach. For instance, the diverse talents and positions of those who combined to carry out the independent studies of environment and of the economy sponsored by the CCPA (with help from NSF)are just what are needed for response to another issue presented to this National Academy16th General Assembly of the International Council of Scientific Unions meeting on “Science: A Resource for Humankind.” The Scientific Committee On Problems of The Environment (SCOPE) reports, in connection with biogeochemical cycles, that the man-made release of carbon dioxide rose from about 2 billion tons per year in 1900 to 18 billion in 1974. Indeed it is reported that the emissions have gone up more than fourfold since 1945 and, as pointed out also in the study on the environment, concentration in the atmosphere went from about 315 parts per million in 1958 to 331 parts per million by 1975. Since this steep increase is expected to go on for the next couple of hundred years, the effect on climate and acidity of the oceans could be dramatic. We believe that independent chemical efforts are urgently needed to relate these findings, which incidentally have already been anticipated in a fairly elaborate systems study of carbon dioxide content at the Oakridge National Laboratory, to probable energy trends of the next years.
Not only must chemistry and chemists take bold initiatives in foreseeing and modifying changes detrimental to our planet and its life, but they must also take a lead in creating the modes through which public and its Governments learn about change, and deal with restraint. Particularly, in our pluralistic system they must assure that measurements of macrosystems be checked and evaluated. Neither Government nor industry by themselves are wholly appropriate for this. The encouraging thing, as we have recently reported to the National Academy of Engineering, is that it is becoming increasingly possible for relatively independent groups, in both industry and universities to probe difficult areas of study in the environment, public health, and in other large arenas. Physical science and bioscience are aiding dramatically in the accessibility of these technologies and researches to pluralistic efforts. Thus, Dr. Kumar Patel has discovered a whole series of new light sources, such as the carbon dioxide laser, itself the principal power source in laser uses. He has gone further to create a set of highly ingenious tunable lasers, particularly the spin-flip Raman lasers, whereby he is now able to convert the CO and CO2 systems through spin-flip Raman lasers to a range of spectroscopy applicable to virtually all environmental needs.
These systems have such sensitivity that a resolution in molecular absorption lines in excess of I part in a hundred million (corresponding to a line width of 200 kilohertz) is now possible. Coupling of these remarkable, optics with acoustic detection devices has led to such new levels of study of the atmosphere and stratosphere by Patel and his co-workers as the detection of as few as 60 million molecules of NO per BC which at atmospheric pressure corresponds to a volumetric proportion of 1 part in a million million total molecules. Through such work significance of many combustion processes in the production of NO will be learned. The relationship of its emission to peroxy acetate can be studied. The optoacoustic methods established by Patel and associates permit the determination of absorption coefficients as low as 10-10 per centimeter and such methods work readily with concentration, in the case of NO, for example, over a range of about 107 molecules per centimeter3. The applications of these findings to understanding of the ozone shield, the photo chemistry of the earth's envelope and mindful of the fact that the catalytic destruction of ozone by NO is apparently such that by increasing the NO concentration twofold the column density of ozone would be sufficiently diminished to expose the earth to appreciably larger ultra- violet radiation.
Thus by such new capabilities in chemical systems we can establish new bases for determining acceptable conditions for industrial innovation, factory operations, vehicle combustion and energy conversion. For instance the needs to know the chemical cycle of the stratosphere involving chlorine oxide, whose function is rather analogous to that of nitrogen oxide in effect of the ozone layer, has obvious consequences for the present controversies about freon and other halogen-bearing liberations into the atmosphere.
Also, reassessment by C. W. Knudsen of ERDA indicates that both the oil shale and coal conversion to liquid fuels is lagging seriously from the hopes we had of approaching, by the end of the century, one-third of domestic production. To do this there would have to be about a hundred plants, each with a capacity of about 50,000 barrels of oil a day. The environment and ecological aspects of such an operation have been little evaluated, and the economics are apparently unappealing. But already the difficulties of objective Governmental assessment and guidance are apparent. Accordingly, as in so many of the other programs for economic progress and national security which we have cited above, sources of independent and skillful advice must be linked to the decisive action in the Federal Government. But a mechanism for this is not provided by statutory agencies. Rather, like the formation of the NASA derived from our PSAC studies, of the Rubber Reserve R&D program, in its time of the Atomic Energy Commission under Lilienthal and of other strong initiatives, this must be done by independent, expert advisors. Although the National Academy of Sciences and its affiliates have had a useful part in such activity for decades, special diligence is now required to maintain their independence and influence.
Overall, a most pervasive initiative in which chemistry can play a central part because of the extraordinary record of its past and chemistry the industrial science and technologywhere research application are most visible economically present, is increase of scientific research in several parts of our society. National research and development for 1976 of $38.1 billion appears to show a 2% increase (in 1967 constant dollars) compared to last year (53% of the total funding will come from Federal Government and 43016, or $16. 6 billion, from industry). But basic research is still well below its nominal levels of the late 160s. Particularly, however, such studies as the National Science Board-National Science Foundation Science Indicators for 1974 shows a serious slackening of spending for basic studies by industry. Thus in the constant 1967 dollars, physics research and industry reached a peak 1968-1969, then go back to the 1965 level in 1974, about 11% below the peak . These are total industrial R&D spending. However, basic industrial research appeared to be down 31% from a peak of 1966, going down to a nominal 1961 level. Physical science basic research equivalent to about a half of industrial basic research expenditures was about 30% less in 1973 than in the peak of the late 1960s. Now it is possible that definitions of basic work have shifted strongly during this time, but it does also appear supported by the testimony of the recent Bicentennial Science report of the National Science Board that total industrial investigations are markedly less than in earlier years. Further, the total national spending for basic research appeared to be about 13% less in 1974 than the peak of 1968 and Federal support for the physical sciences was down about 25% in this time. But indeed even in the whole decade and a half of 1960 to 1974, industry support of basic studies seems to have gone down from 28% to 15% of the national total. And this is particularly alarming in view of the Science Indicators1974 reports that in their study of 277 innovations of the past 20 years, basic research was cited for about 40% of the relevant technology, and applied research for the rest.
Yet the most critical resource for discovery and invention on which industry depends, and on which national economy and security hang heavily, that of trained and talented human skills, appeared to be increasing according to the plans proposed during the early days of PSAC. Thus 92% of academic basic research is conducted in connection with graduate studies in accord with the principles of the Seaborg Report. But it now includes some 280 universities, many more than even 5 or 10 years ago. This expansion of course has been in the face of the dollar stagnation or decline mentioned so that in the past 10 years it is believed that the expenditures per faculty member at these institutions has gone down by a third in chemistry and by about 40% in physics.
Nevertheless, among the more than 14,000 registered students in chemistry reported to be enrolled in 1975, a number which is up a little further this year, we believe there are high potentials for new strengths in basic chemistry and its applications. A joint endeavor of industrial leaders and academic leaders directed toward such extension of national efforts in basic chemistry and its derivatives could be one of the best investments of our day. It is disturbing that even in 1973 the down trend in industrial science had reduced a proportion of published research from industry in 13 scientific fields to about 10% of the total, while academic fraction had gone up 75%. But in chemistry itself university research components went from between 1960 and 1973 from 59% to 75% while industry research reports in chemistry decreased from 25% to 18% (and physics from 28% to 16%). This trend is dismaying, for by publication and comparison with peers not only is technology transferred importantly throughout the producing sectors of the Nation but, also, levels of quality and originality are enhanced. In the COSPUP studies of the Westheimer Committee we recognized the threat of this fall in the science base for industrial chemistry, but we must now take concerted action to correct it.
What we shall offer in the next few minutes is a strong assertion that far from shifting or churning the national policies for science and engineering, and especially those intrinsic to chemistry and its derivatives, have shown clear, strong sequence of progress in the past two decades. It is more important they will be pursued vividly and surely in the next years unless some drastic shift in Governmental attitude or capabilities sets in. Thus, it is time on this occasion to resolve that we can enhance the strengths of the Nation and of the free-world through the expansion of chemical research and technology, of chemical production and resource development. There is no reason or cause for slackening of such aspirations and activities, for neither of the potentials of discovery nor human talent essential to their realization are declining or weakening. In fact, our comments that chemical systems are now spreading throughout industry emphasizes that the problems of economic and Governmental coordination of technical advance, which have seriously inhibited solution of needs in housing, transportation, public health, defense, and other national arenas, can be considerably simplified. For the necessity to coordinate disparate arts and techniques of design, material, mechanical engineering, machine construction, environmental control, etc., are now coming together through increasing unity of materials and chemical assessing. Likewise, energy conversion has also a more coherent chemical-physical base than ever before, and initiatives ranging from improved nuclear plants through to the heat exchange and energy production stages are possible.
But let us stress for a moment into a not wholly fanciful representation of oncoming features of this science advising.
Of course conditions now for the operations of the science and technology office in the White House, and the creation of new national initiatives in chemistry and other fields, are different than before. Creativity, speculation, the genesis of ideasall such things on which science and technology, innovation and invention so delicately dependare now and in the times to come subject to new hazards.
Let us speculate for a moment on what could happen in the near future, as the OSTP and the President's Committee on Science and Technology seek to cope with compelling issues of today. In a fashion approved by popular institutions such as those for the Future, those using Delphic systems of prediction, those thinking“tanks for the nice grant”let us establish a scenario.
The scene is in an oval room overlooking a sweeping landscape like an ellipse. Therefore, with such geometry we immediately think of the conic sections, looking indeed, because of the strong economic and political interest of the environ, perhaps even for ways that technology could make a conic boom! Accordingly, the discussion of several top scientists and engineers in the oval chamberincluding the Chairman of the President's Committee on Science and Technology and other membersis about a new possibility of ion implants into carboniferous matter such as coal and certain wood and other plant material. Such elementary implants may have intense and remarkable catalytic effects, induced in the presence of hydrogen and leading to immensely efficient hydrocarbon and alcohol production from these vastly plentiful natural resources. The scientists and engineers wish to report to the person at the desk, who being seated is known also as a Chairperson, on whether a major national initiative should be startedone larger than the Manhattan Project. This would establish whether energy needs and fuels for all foreseeable future can be provided from abundant materials in this way. Obviously the implications for national security and international stability are intense, since the positions of the OPEC countries, those of conflicting ideology, and of developing nations would all be drastically affected.
The meeting begins with a brief account of how a variety of particle accelerators will be needed to establish comparable conditions for the ion implants. Much care is needed to avoid undue public expectations and also to avoid public concern about whether some new nuclear ventures being attempted, that would have extensive radiation hazards. This care must be fostered. After the first few words of explanation, there comes a voice from the far side of the room asking, was this meeting announced in the Federal register at this place for this date and time? According to public law for the Sunshine conduct of all Governmental affairs, except those certain ones on national security, personnel discussions and budget matters? After many seconds of silence the Chairman, who is distinctly not the Chairperson, asks who are you? The voice responds, I am the Washington Ghost. I do not believe that this session was properly announced, I shall therefore denounce it as illegal when I submit my story of the actions for tomorrow morning's edition. Goodbye. I must now go off to write my story, in order, that in the highest traditions of investigative reporting we shall meet or possibly beat the deadline.
Those still remaining in the oval room barely including the Chairperson who has just pressed all 14 buttons of his Call Director telephone simultaneously, and who could not then leave the room because all exits have become clogged with staff members, all remaining return to the discussion. In order to move right along. which is necessary in the efficient administration of all enterprises nowadays, the Chairman notes that the catalytic ions must be implanted in various matter, at various depths, involving various field strengths. At this point, the Chairperson . quickly presses the button for the Secretary of Agriculture, and picks up his telephone, requesting a call also to the Weather Bureau on field implanting conditions in the continental United States. These rapid responses are consistent with the new science policy of enlisting the whole resources of the Government and the Nation to meet national energy requirements.
The Chairman hastily interjects that indeed a lively knowledge of nuclear engineering is indispensable to organize for this new initiative. However, he himself is governed much by the traditional concept that to get anything to work requires a task force. This phenomenon was fortunately unknown to Galileo, Newton, or Einstein, or other masters of classical and quantum mechanics. But it has become a sociophysical requirement of recent years. Thus it is agreed that the ion implanting may be farmed out to a qualified task force which will conduct its first meeting on “Meet the Press” after publication of the final report in the Federal register.