This report was prepared through the World Technology Evaluation Center (WTEC), which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and coordinated by Loyola College in Maryland. This WTEC study was co-sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It describes research and development efforts in Europe, Japan, and Russia in the satellite communications industry. WTEC is an outgrowth of and a companion to the Japanese Technology Evaluation Center (JTEC) which, for a number of years, has published a series of important technology assessments under NSF sponsorship. While JTEC will continue as a channel for evaluating Japanese technologies, WTEC broadens the geographic scope of technology assessment.

Although many U.S. organizations support substantial data gathering and analysis directed at other nations, the government and privately sponsored studies that are in the public domain tend to be "input" studies. That is, they provide measurements of expenditures, personnel data, and facilities, but do not provide an assessment of the quality or quantity of the outputs obtained. Studies of the outputs of the research and development process are more difficult to perform since they require a subjective analysis by individuals who are experts in the relevant technical fields. The National Science Foundation staff includes professionals with expertise over a wide range of technologies. These individuals provide the technical expertise needed to assemble panels of experts who can perform competent, unbiased, scientific and technical reviews of research and development activities. Further, a principal activity of the Foundation is the review and selection for funding of research proposals. Thus the Foundation has both experience and credibility in this process. The WTEC activity builds on this capability.

Specific technologies, such as nuclear instrumentation and control, biotechnology, or satellite communications, are selected for study by individuals in government agencies who are able to contribute to the funding of the study. A typical assessment is sponsored by two or more agencies. In cooperation with the sponsoring agencies, NSF selects a panel of experts who will conduct the study. Administrative oversight of the panel is provided by Loyola College in Maryland, which operates WTEC under an NSF grant.

Panelists are selected for their expertise in specific areas of technology and their broad knowledge of research and development in both the United States and the countries of interest. Of great importance is the ability of panelists to produce a comprehensive, informed and unbiased report. Most panelists have travelled previously to the host countries or had professional association with their expert counterparts there. Nonetheless, as part of the assessment, the panel as a whole travels to host countries to spend one full week, as a minimum, visiting research and development sites and meeting with researchers. These trips have proven to be highly informative, and the panelists have been given broad access to both researchers and facilities. Upon completion of its trip, the panel conducts a one-day workshop to present its findings. Following the workshop, the panel completes a written report that is intended for widespread distribution.

Study results are widely distributed. Representatives of the host countries and members of the media are invited to attend the workshops. Final reports are made available through the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). Further publication of results is encouraged in the professional society journals and magazines. Articles derived from this study have already appeared in The New York Times, Via Satellite, Electronic Engineering Times, Satellite Communications, Space News, New Technology Week, and others.

The methodology developed and applied to the study of research and development in Japan is now proven to be equally relevant to Europe and other leading industrial nations. In general, the United States can benefit from a better understanding of cutting-edge research that is being conducted outside its borders. Improved awareness of international developments can significantly enhance the scope and effectiveness of international collaboration and thus benefit all our international partners in joint research and development efforts.

Paul J. Herer
National Science Foundation
Washington, DC

Published: July 1993; WTEC Hyper-Librarian