The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has released proceedings from a February 2020 symposium that summarizes discussions among leading business, academic, and government professionals on the future of science policy in the U.S. and whether the modern research architecture needs to be reconfigured to meet 21st century challenges.
“We need to find ways to make all of our institutions, including my own, more responsive and nimble in a fast-moving world,” said Marcia McNutt, President of NAS. “We must ask if we are doing enough to inspire, nurture, and cultivate our young people. We have to encourage diversity and inclusion and create an informed citizenry that values decision-making and policies based on science and evidence.”
Drawing on remarks from a number of leaders—including former NSF Director France Córdova, Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Rafael Reif, former Lockheed Martin Corp CEO Norman Augustine, and Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science founder Alan Alda—the report examines future pathways to leadership in science, how to respond to an evolving research enterprise, communicating science to the public, the evolution of the government-university research partnership, and connecting basic research with economic growth.
The report, The Endless Frontier: The Next 75 Years in Science, concludes with four take-home messages from McNutt “to ensure that science remains the endless frontier.” The first highlights education: “Science needs more exciting new projects to attract young people to research—It also needs to prepare and reach out to everyone, not just to the members of particular groups.” The second message emphasizes the need for scientists to effectively engage with the public, with communication going “in both directions, so scientists learn what members of the public think and need and what it takes to earn the public’s trust.” The third point underlines the importance of a diversified research portfolio to ensure research dollars are spent in the most effective way. The final take-home message involves the re-envisioning of the reward system in science and the need for science to be much more inclusive, distributed, and participatory.
The symposium was held in partnership with The Kavli Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of Vannevar Bush’s report Science: The Endless Frontier, which created a blueprint for U.S. scientific research after World War II.