Category Archives: Organizations

The Science Coalition Promotes American Leadership of Science

This coalition gets some ink by an annual award to someone, usually a Member of Congress, who supports their goals. The most recent (3/16/15) “Champion of Science” was Senator Dick Durban (D – Illinois).

“The Science Coalition (TSC) is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization of the nation’s leading public and private research universities. It is dedicated to sustaining strong federal funding of basic scientific research as a means to stimulate the economy, drive innovation and secure America’s global competitiveness. Learn more at”

The list of reports at their site tries to make the case that basic research is good for America, more research would be better, but what would it really take for America to be the best?  Well, that will take more motivation that recognizing one of the 535 Members once a year. I think that national security might be that motivation, now the missing item in their goals.

Still, I support what they are trying to do, of course. Too bad there is no way for individuals to participate in their organization.

R. D. Shelton

DOD Goals for World Class S&T

The Director of Defense Research and Engineering coordinates department-wide S&T, including supervision of DARPA and the R&D activities of the individual armed services. 

In July 2009, DDR&E introduced four Imperatives to focus the organization in support of the immediate and
future needs of the Department of Defense:

    Accelerate delivery of technical capabilities to win the current fight
    Prepare for an uncertain future
    Reduce the cost, acquisition time and risk of our major defense acquisition programs
    Develop world class science, technology, engineering, and mathematics capabilities for the DoD and the Nation

I think that to measure their progress against that last goal, they need to evaluate where the US stands relative to others.  The Congress seems to agree.  Here is the text of a law (10 C 2365) that establishes a Global Research Watch Program.

(a) Program.— The Director of Defense Research and Engineering shall carry out a Global Research Watch program in accordance with this section.

(b) Program Goals.— The goals of the program are as follows:

(1) To monitor and analyze the basic and applied research activities and capabilities of foreign nations in areas of military interest, including allies and competitors.

(2) To provide standards for comparison and comparative analysis of research capabilities of foreign nations in relation to the research capabilities of the United States.

(3) To assist Congress and Department of Defense officials in making investment decisions for research in technical areas where the United States may not be the global leader.

(4) To identify areas where significant opportunities for cooperative research may exist.

(5) To coordinate and promote the international cooperative research and analysis activities of each of the armed forces and Defense Agencies.

(6) To establish and maintain an electronic database on international research capabilities, comparative assessments of capabilities, cooperative research opportunities, and ongoing cooperative programs.

(c) Focus of Program.— The program shall be focused on research and technologies at a technical maturity level equivalent to Department of Defense basic and applied research programs.

(d) Coordination.—

(1) The Director shall coordinate the program with the international cooperation and analysis activities of the military departments and Defense Agencies.

(2) The Secretaries of the military departments and the directors of the Defense Agencies shall provide the Director of Defense Research and Engineering such assistance as the Director may require for purposes of the program.

(e) Classification of Database Information.— Information in electronic databases of the Global Research Watch program shall be maintained in unclassified form and, as determined necessary by the Director, in classified form in such databases.

(f) Termination.— The requirement to carry out the program under this section shall terminate on September 30, 2011.

R. D. Shelton

S&T In China: A Roadmap to 2050

CAS Roadmap to 2050

This handsome softcover book has just been released by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and is published in the West by Springer.  Editor-in-Chief Yongziang Lu and his team deserve great credit for making this strategic general report available in English, soon after its publication in China.

The CAS plays a central role in natural sciences in China; thus they took the lead in following up on the National Mid- and Long-Term S&T Plan to 2020, released in 2006.  Of course, command economies have had lots of practice in planning, a talent still useful in today’s more market-oriented economy.  With great effort, and much controversy, Western countries might be able to produce a five- or ten-year plan for S&T; the Chinese now have one for the next 40 years.  Indeed, the book takes a typically Chinese longer view; its treatment of the history of scientific revolutions reaches back centuries.  One thesis is that the Great Recession of 2008-9 might catalyze the next S&T revolution, as similar financial crises have done in the past.  Since this worldwide cataclysm coincided with China’s emergence as challenger to Western leadership in economic and S&T strength, there there is some suggestion that the next revolution may see China become the next “world science center,” following Italy, Britain, France, Germany, and the USA in succession.  In the end they predict that there will be multiple centers, and this roadmap is designed to ensure that China is one of them.

The roadmap follows standard methods; identification of areas of focus (none surprising), characteristics of the areas, objectives for their progress, and research agendas that could achieve that progress.  The plan recognizes that currently “As to S&T development, China is generally a follower and imitator.”  To move toward their goal, “an innovation-driven country with Chinese characteristics,” China must continue to be open to best ideas from abroad, but “original innovation is the source of a country’s international competitiveness.  Key technologies of strategic importance can never be bought from the outside world.”

I think that it’s time that the US learned from the Chinese that long range planning can help guide a nation’s efforts toward great objectives, including leadership in science and technology; their record of meteoric progress speaks for itself.  The new Obama innovation plan requires much more detailed implementation planning, and this Chinese roadmap could be a reasonable model. Our National Academy of Sciences doesn’t have the bulk of the CAS, with its hundreds of research institutes, but it does have the intellectual power to plan at least as effectively.

R. D. Shelton

Global Technological Competitiveness: The Rise of China

The Technology Policy and Assessment Center (TPAC) at Georgia Tech has been assessing the relative position of 33 nations in technology every three years since 1987.  One fairly recent assessment aligns closely with our Rio Paper , in that it is based on data through 2005.  Their methodology is quite different in that it uses a composite of many indicators, and adds expert opinion on national positions.  Ours was based on a simple portfolio of input and output indicators.  Nevertheless, both approaches arrive at much the same major conclusions: the most dramatic aspect of the assessment is the meteoric rise of China through 2005, and a forecast that China will soon become the world’s leader, by passing the US.

 A TPAC update released on Jan. 24, 2008 concludes that China had passed the US with 82.8 on their leadership index, compared to 76.1 for the US, 66.8 for Germany, and 66.0 for Japan. Just 11 years earlier, China’s score was only 22.5.  The US peaked at 95.4 in 1999.   See International high tech competitiveness: Does China rank #1? Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, Alan L. Porter, Nils C. Newman, J. David Roessner, David M. Johnson, and Xiao-Yin Ji, Vol. 21, no. 2, 173-193, 2009

R. D. Shelton 

World Leadership Goals of the New OSTP Compared to the Old

When President George W. Bush finally appointed Jack Marburger to be the Director of OSTP in June, 2000, I reported in my old ITRInews #34 that the press release clearly signaled a downgrade of the position, indeed the rumours were that several candidates had turned down the position for that reason. 

This was not the only downgrade.   Fourteen months later, their former top goal, as stated in first sentence on the OSTP homepage, “The Federal Government plays a critical role in maintaining American leadership in science and technology.”  disappeared completely from the site, without comment.   See the ITRInews #48 article and editorial, “The dog that didn’t bark.”  (In the interests of full disclosure, I had actually sent a letter to Dr. Marburger warning that, based on scores of WTEC studies, such a goal was going to be difficult to achieve.  I doubt if I had any impact on this decision, though; he or his staff certainly didn’t reply.)

Insiders in the Bush OSTP have told me that they just got tired of being hammered by agencies who pointed with alarm abroad to bolster their requests for more money.  So the easiest thing was to just get rid of the goal that President Truman had set in 1950–they probably didn’t even know that history.  The last time I looked, the White House OMB still puts this goal in its annual budget submissions to Congress, but they seem to only be talking at the US input investment in R&D being greater than any other country, not any kind of output performance measure.

The new OSTP doesn’t exactly highlight this goal either. Their website now starts with,

“The Office of Science and Technology Policy advises the President on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs. The office serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans and programs of the Federal Government. OSTP leads an interagency effort to develop and implement sound science and technology policies and budgets. The office works with the private sector to ensure Federal investments in science and technology contribute to economic prosperity, environmental quality, and national security.”

But if you drill down into the site, you find their new innovation strategic plan that does address this goal.  (We wonks had waited in vain for eight years for the Bush Administration to produce an S&T  plan.) The plan has near the top:

“1. Invest in the Building Blocks of American Innovation. We must first ensure that our economy is given all the necessary tools for successful innovation, from investments in research and development to the human, physical, and technological capital needed to perform that research and transfer those innovations.

 Restore American leadership in fundamental research. President Obama implemented the largest increase in basic R&D in history, which will lay the foundation for new discoveries and new technologies that will improve our lives and create the industries of the future.”

Nitpickers will notice that restoring leadership in fundamental research is not nearly as a broad as Truman’s goal of maintaining world leadership in S&T generally, but it is a start.

R. D. Shelton

ACS Calls for More DOD R&D To Maintain our Technological Edge

The American Chemical Society has 154,000 members, making it the world’s largest scientific society.  Many are international, but like the US arm of the largest engineering society, IEEE-USA, ACS provides a legislative agenda to represent its US members, and what it sees as the national interest, to the Federal Government.  Their policy statement on the FY2010 budget for the Department of Defense is quoted below, since I think it makes an excellent case for R&D investment to maintain our technological edge for national security, and reports on how DOD is not meeting that challenge.

We will soon see the final numbers for the DOD budget, and I doubt that it will be possible to meet the ACS goals within a budget that has to pay for two wars that have already lasted longer than any previous US wars. I don’t envy those who have to make allocations between the need to contain nasty, but limited, threats from Al Qaeda now, and likely much worse threats from emerging superpowers  later. The President’s speech last night touched on one aspect of this dilemma, not guns vs. butter, but guns now vs. investments in the economic strength to buy guns later.  The ACS says:

“The American Chemical Society (ACS) continues to call for increased investment in the Department of Defense (DOD) Science & Technology (S&T) portfolio. Specifically, we support a $400 million increase to peer-reviewed basic research for a total of $2.2 billion in FY 2010, an 18 percent increase over FY 2009.

Research sponsored by DOD is fundamental to protecting the lives of U.S. military men and women and maintaining our military’s technological edge. The basic research programs (6.1 account) underpin advances in applied research and advanced technology development, as well as progress in basic science and engineering research nationwide. Collectively, these programs advance scientific knowledge and enable new technologies and applications critical to the DOD mission, as well as being valuable in the civilian sector.

ACS supports the goal of reserving three percent of the DOD budget for S&T as called for by the Defense Sciences Board. This is consistent with funding levels necessary to replenish the pipeline for future war fighting advances and recommendations put forth by the National Academies’ report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm. Through declining budget requests, DOD has steadily shifted away from fundamental, long-term research. The president’s specific request for a decline in funding continues this trend and is now less than 60 percent of the goal for basic research set by the Defense Science Board.”

There’s more at the link below, but you get the idea. 

R. D. Shelton


They say that the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers is the world’s largest engineering society.  Like many professional organizations, it has become as global as those formerly US corporations.  You think the American Association for the Advancement of Science promotes American science?  Not exactly; they promote science wherever.  Recognizing long ago (1973) that its US members needed a voice in DC, the IEEE created a sister organization, IEEE-USA. Chris Brantley is now the Managing Director.  This organization can be an important ally in defending American science leadership.  And in my humble opinion, other American professional societies ought to adopt the IEEE-USA model.

R. D. Shelton

S&T Strategic Plans: ONR

 The Office of Naval Research has a distinguished heritage as one of America’s premier sponsors of basic research.  Indeed in 1950 its early success was one of the models that led to the founding of the National Science Foundation for the civilian sector.  In recent years, though, ONR has shifted toward more applied research priorities.  When young American military personnel are being killed every day by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), it’s hard to wait decades for new discoveries in chemistry and physics to provide solutions. Their current strategic plan reflects that urgency, and hopefully civilian agencies like NIH, NSF, DOE, and NIST will have more patient capital.

The plan says, “As the Department of the Navy’s S&T provider, ONR provides technology solutions for Navy and Marine Corps needs. ONR’s mission — defined by law — is to plan, foster, and encourage scientific research in recognition of its paramount importance as related to the maintenance of future naval power, and the preservation of national security. Further, ONR manages the Navy’s basic, applied, and advanced research to foster transition from science and technology to higher levels of research, development, test and evaluation.”

R. D. Shelton

NAS Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy (STEP)

The National Academy of Sciences has boards of distinguished volunteers on many aspects of S&T.  One that is relevant to this blog is the STEP board at 

I see that Mary Good and Arati Prabhakar are among the members, innovation experts that I have encountered in earlier incarnations.  STEP has published several reports on international innovation that readers of this blog would probably find interesting.  I particularly liked the one on Innovation Policies for the 21st Century: A Symposium at 

It contains a facinating account by Tom Howell on how the PRC recently learned from Taiwan how to quickly reform its semiconductor industry.  This process has worked so well that he estimates that there will be 30 fabs built in China in the next few years, compared to 6 in the US.

R. D. Shelton