Vannevar Bush: Inventor of Government Research Funding Strategy
Vannevar Bush was the inventor of government investment in research innovation. He was founder of the US National Science Foundation, founder of Raytheon, main organizer of the Manhattan Project which influenced Berkeley leading to Silicon Valley, etc. Here is a timely extract from his letter to President Roosevelt entitled Science: the endless frontier:
There are certain basic principles which must underlie the program of Government support for scientific research and education if such support is to be effective and if it is to avoid impairing the very things we seek to foster. These principles are as follows:
- Whatever the extent of support may be, there must be stability of funds over a period of years so that long-range programs may be undertaken.
- The agency to administer such funds should be composed of citizens selected only on the basis of their interest in and capacity to promote the work of the agency. They should be persons of broad interest in and understanding of the peculiarities of scientific research and education.
- The agency should promote research through contracts or grants to organizations outside the Federal Government. It should not operate any laboratories of its own.
- Support of basic research in the public and private colleges, universities, and research institutes must leave the internal control of policy, personnel, and the method and scope of the research to the institutions themselves. This is of the utmost importance.
- While assuring complete independence and freedom for the nature, scope, and methodology of research carried on in the institutions receiving public funds, and while retaining discretion in the allocation of funds among such institutions, the Foundation proposed herein must be responsible to the President and the Congress. Only through such responsibility can we maintain the proper relationship between science and other aspects of a democratic system. The usual controls of audits, reports, budgeting, and the like, should, of course, apply to the administrative and fiscal operations of the Foundation, subject, however, to such adjustments in procedure as are necessary to meet the special requirements of research.
Basic research is a long-term process - it ceases to be basic if immediate results are expected on short-term support. Methods should therefore be found which will permit the agency to make commitments of funds from current appropriations for programs of five years duration or longer. Continuity and stability of the program and its support may be expected (a) from the growing realization by the Congress of the benefits to the public from scientific research, and (b) from the conviction which will grow among those who conduct research under the auspices of the agency that good quality work will be followed by continuing support.