Home Page
Upcoming Events
Your Comments
President Clinton Calls for Renewal of the Federal Government-University Research Partnership for the 21st Century
The Federal government, through its agencies, has long recognized the importance of supporting the development of highly trained scientists and engineers through the research enterprise. Research was being conducted in private universities even before the Morrill Land-Grant College Act of 1862, which provided for the establishment in every state of universities to conduct scientific research and teach "branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts." More recently, Vannevar Bush’s 1945 report stated that it should be one of the nation’s highest priorities to maintain a continuous supply of well-trained scientists and engineers to address the nation’s evolving science and technology agenda. The importance of making a scientific education accessible to a diverse student population and of ensuring strong research-intensive universities in all regions of the United States is recognized through such programs as EPSCoR (Experimental Programs to Stimulate Competitive Research) and by support of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Students emerge from their research training to embark on research careers in universities, industry, and government, others become integral to directing and managing the high-technology economy, and many also become involved in public policy as citizens, public advocates, and policymakers. They collectively make major contributions to public health and safety, national security, environmental quality, agricultural productivity, quality of life, and international economic competitiveness.

The integration of research and education is the hallmark and strength of our research and education system. Indeed, an important rationale for the Federal investment in university-based research is the benefit derived from training a new generation of scientists and engineers. The proximity and integration of the research and education functions enables a continuous process of mutual enrichment. Most Federal agencies also consider education and training of students who become familiar with issues of importance to that agency to be one of the major benefits of their research partnership with universities. Students who assist in Federally sponsored research projects simultaneously satisfy their educational requirements while providing an important contribution to the national research enterprise. Because it is integrated with education, university research not only generates knowledge and understanding, but is also therefore a wellspring of new science and engineering talent. The findings of the recent National Science Board report on "The Federal Role in Science and Engineering Graduate and Postdoctoral Education" reaffirm the importance of the link between research and education.

The vital and dual roles of students as both researchers, who contribute to the national research enterprise, and as students, who gain research experience as part of their training as future scientists and engineers, must be recognized and reflected in government policies and practices. Dividing the research and education enterprise into financial or operational component parts reduces the effectiveness of the enterprise as a whole. To the extent that Federal requirements encourage such distinctions, they should be re-examined and possibly modified to ensure that the linkage between research and education is as clear as possible. Artificial distinctions that characterize students as either students or employees, rather than as students and employees, for example, send the wrong message about national priorities and lead to misunderstanding about the role of students in Federally funded research projects. A student should be eligible for support on a Federal research grant on the basis of the benefits that individual brings to the research project, and not on whether the university defines the individual as a student or as an employee.

The scientific and technological advances that keep our nation at the forefront of economic progress, military preparedness, health care and quality of life for our citizens depend upon a highly educated and motivated workforce. Developing such a workforce requires that the best and the brightest students from varying cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic origins are prepared for careers in science and technology and that they choose to pursue such careers. We must engage the natural curiosity of all our young people, from all backgrounds and areas of the country, in science and engineering. It was with these considerations in mind that the NSTC established an interagency working group on the "U.S. Science and Technology Workforce of the Future." The working group is analyzing the impact of demographic and socio-economic changes on the S&T workforce and will make recommendations for how the Federal government can increase the participation of women and minorities who are currently under-represented in the workforce.

The linkage between education and research must begin before students reach college and be reinforced at the undergraduate level if it is to be effective in ensuring the flow of our best and brightest into science and engineering disciplines. Undergraduates, as well as graduate students, should have the opportunity for regular exposure to senior research faculty and for engagement in meaningful scientific or engineering research. Such programs can contribute to a scientifically literate population and help provide the foundation for educating future scientists and engineers. NSTC encourages partnerships among schools (K-12), research intensive industry, universities, and Federal Laboratories to give students and teachers exposure to research and to better undertand its role in our society.

As we look toward the next century, we see a world in which all citizens will need a high level of scientific and technological literacy to succeed. Attaining this level of proficiency will require improved training for K-12 teachers of mathematics and science, which in turn requires research to improve our understanding about the learning process. Universities are encouraged to help raise the quality of K-12 education in their own communities and in the communities from which they draw their undergraduates. The missions of several Federal agencies include education objectives at the K-12 and undergraduate, as well as at the graduate and postdoctoral levels. Increased science and math study opportunities for non-traditional students, such as those returning to school for mid-career retraining, are also important in attaining a scientific and technically literate population and workforce. The Federal government's partnership with universities, while not always entailing specific educational obligations, can contribute significantly to human resource development at all levels. The Interagency Education Research Initiative, in its second year, is such an initiative, providing substantial support for large-scale, interdisciplinary university-based research that will lead to improved teaching and learning through better understanding of K-12 learning in reading and mathematics and K-12 teacher education.


ACTIONS: Reaffirm the Importance of the Integration of Research and Education and Strengthen the Linkages in Practice
  • The NSTC reaffirms the importance to the nation, the research enterprise, and the future scientific and engineering workforce of linking education and research. Federal agencies and universities are encouraged to explore mechanisms and to experiment with programs that catalyze the integration of research and education on campus and aid students in their transition from students to members of the scientific and engineering workforce.
  • The NSTC will review government policies and practices to ensure that agencies are able to support students in a manner consistent with their dual roles as researchers and students, and recommend changes as necessary. The NSTC will provide the results of the review and recommendations to the appropriate Federal agencies within twelve months of this report.

Previous Page

Top of Page

Next Page