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Welcome Remarks

by
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

29th Annual AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy
Washington, D.C.

Thursday, April 22, 2004


It is my privilege, as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to welcome you to our 29th Annual Forum on Science and Technology Policy.

This gathering was known, in its early years, as the “R&D” Colloquium, and it focused, predominantly, on federal research and development budget issues. The federal budget for research and development is still an important part of the meeting, but the current name — Science and Technology Forum — reflects a broader focus.

The word “colloquium” carries an academic connotation…and, as we have distinguished academicians on the program, we will be considering — and debating — the some of the most significant issues and challenges facing science and technology in today’s context. But we changed the title to “forum,” to emphasize what we hope will be an even more open and interactive discussion.

Heretofore, the AAAS Forum has been known for its coverage of domestic science and technology policy issues, which we think has been unequalled by any other series of meetings.

We believe that the program this year will live up to that reputation. Certainly, the morning plenary session, alone, will uphold that standard, with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle speaking on science and the national interest, and with Daniel Yankelovich offering recommendations for how science might increase its impact on policy, more commensurate with its criticality in everyday life.

A session this afternoon will consider the policy implications of converging new technologies. Another will consider the policy and civic implications of information technologies. And, still, another will examine the sustainability of the modern research university.

But, in addition to domestic concerns, issues of global interest have a prominent place on the program. The plenary session tomorrow morning will examine U.S. adaptations to emerging aspects of the global market economy — specifically, moving jobs offshore, the growing scientific and technological sophistication of other nations, the continued use of foreign-born talent, and whether American innovation is sufficient to sustain our preeminence.

My colleague, Dr. Denis Fred Simon, Dean of the Lally School of Management and Technology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, will provide his observations on the emerging role of China in the science and technology continuum of the 21st century, since he spent a large part of his career there.

An additional point of view on science and technology funding will be offered at tomorrow morning’s breakfast address by Jaime Parada Avila, director of Mexico’s primary agency for that purpose, the National Council for Science and Technology.

I had the pleasure of participating yesterday at a session organized at Georgetown University focused on science, technology, and education cooperation among Mexico, the United States, and Canada, especially on issues of importance to Mexico’s continued development.

And, the closing session tomorrow is, by implication, international in scope, dealing with the effects on science and technology of measures taken in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Certainly, the impact of post-September 11 on security and on research into security technologies is extensive. Likewise, it has affected visa applications for some foreign students and scientists. Are we depriving ourselves of a significant source of scientific and technological talent by limiting entry? Or, are we removing an expedient, but ultimately short-sighted, solution to a more basic challenge — the need to educate the full spectrum talent pool — the women and minorities comprising the “new majority” — groups historically underrepresented in science and engineering?

These questions are at the heart of the Perfect Storm — the convergence of three forces: the aging of the current science, technology and engineering workforce, the apparent lack of interest of young Americans overall in careers in science and engineering, and decline of international students in graduate programs in the U.S. leading universities, and the fact that many U.S. educated international students and engineers are choosing to return home. This begs the question of who will do the science of this millennium? To answer it, requires that we must consider, nurture, and draw from the entire talent pool, which means the underrepresented majority.

This is an issue that should be at the forefront of debate here, and whenever science and technology policy is considered. I look forward to tomorrow’s session as an opportunity to explore these issues.

Another prominent theme running through the Forum concerns economic resources, or overall Federal support of R&D. Many prominent business people and scientists themselves are sounding the alarm about under-investment in R&D and in educating young people at the graduate level in science and technology — an alarm sounded just Tuesday by Craig R. Barrett, CEO of Intel and Richard E. Smalley, Nobel Laureate and professor at Rice University who are leaders on the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation. Fourteen organizations affiliated with academia and business including the American Association of Universities (AAU), the Alliance for Science and Technology Research in America (ASTRA), Science Coalition, Semiconductor Industry Association, American Physical Society (APS), IBM, HP, Texas Instruments, and Council on Competitiveness, seek balance across science, more support for basic research, and focus on developing the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Presentations include:

  • Tomorrow’s luncheon speaker, John D. Graham, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
  • Kei Koizumi, AAAS Director of Research and Development Budget and Policy, will examine the Federal government’s FY2005 budget proposals for research and development, and project the state of Federal research and development funding over the next five years.
  • And, Irwin Feller, Senior Visiting Scientist, AAAS, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Pennsylvania State University will discuss changes in revenue sources at major research universities.

We also will hear at lunch today from Deborah Wince-Smith, President of the Council on Competitiveness about the Council’s new National Innovation Initiative.

Another highlight in our highlight-filled agenda is the William D. Carey Lecture this evening. I was privileged to deliver the Carey Lecture last year. It is, as they say, a “bully pulpit” from which to speak one’s mind on broad topics and to challenge colleagues to provide leadership in determining the future direction of science and technology. I took full advantage of the opportunity, and I know that this year’s Carey lecturer, Dr. Harold Varmus, President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, will be similarly forthright. His lecture is entitled “Science, Government and the Public Interest.” It is open to the public, and you are free to invite colleagues and guests.

In sum, we think we have assembled a significant and provocative program. However, this is, as I said earlier, a forum, an open discussion, and we invite everyone to ask questions and to participate fully.

There has been one omission in my delineation of the agenda of the forum, but it is by no means indicative of its relative significance. In fact, the presentation to which I refer will open our proceedings at the highest level.

Dr. John H. Marburger III, Science Advisor to the President and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy will deliver our opening keynote address. Dr. Marburger holds a B.A. in Physics from Princeton and a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Stanford. Before his appointment in the Executive Office of the President in 2001, he served as Director of Brookhaven National Laboratory, a position he took in 1998.

Between 1980 and 1994, he served as third president of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.  Prior to his tenure as president, he was at the University of Southern California, where he had been a professor of physics and electrical engineering, Physics Department Chairman, and Dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in the 1970s. In 1997 he became President of Brookhaven Science Associates, a partnership between the university and Battelle Memorial Institute, which won the contract to operate Brookhaven National Laboratory.

While at the University of Southern California (USC), Dr. Marburger’s research focused on nonlinear optics. He was a co-founder of the USC Center for Laser Studies.

Dr. Marburger’s presidency at Stony Brook coincided with the development of the biological sciences as a major strength of the university. During the 1980s federally sponsored scientific research at Stony Brook grew to exceed that of any other public university in the northeastern United States.

This is the second time I have introduced Dr. Marburger in recent months. We were fortunate to host Dr. Marburger last fall at the first Rensselaer Presidential Lecture Series, where he provided a cogent and comprehensive analysis of national priorities in science and technology policy.

Of his performance in his present position, The New York Times recently said, “Marburger is said by White House officials to have Mr. Bush’s ear on all important technical matters….In fact, Dr. Marburger…may be just what fellow scientists have always longed for in the White House, an expert with deep knowledge of the technical issues, a bureaucrat’s ease in palace politics, a ready turn of phrase, and even a modest dose of mystique.”

The same article quotes White House Deputy Chief of Staff Andrew Card as saying, “He is closer to the pulse in the White House than any of his predecessors….the president enjoys Jack Marburger.

I know that you will find his presentation both edifying and enjoyable. Please join me in welcoming our keynote speaker, Dr. John H. Marburger III.


Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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