> 1. Today's high-tech industry is based on the research of yesterday.
> 2. Tomorrow's high tech industry will be based on the research of today.
> 3. The sciences are coupled--progress in one area usually requires supporting
> work from other areas.
> 4. Federal support for research has paid off and will be even more important
> in the future.
I especially appreciated the logic behind:
> As a high energy physicist I can only wish that we had been smarter, and,
> instead of having people type WWW when they want to surf the Internet, we had
> them type HEP perhaps we would have bigger budgets now had we done so.
The take-home meme is:
> "Patent applications in the United States are supposed to
> cite the prior art' on which the particular patent is based. A
> recent study of patent applications from U.S. industry shows that
> 73% of the prior art' cited comes from publicly-funded research.
> (F. Narin, K.S. Hamilton and D. Olivastro, The increasing linkage
> between U.S. technology and public sciences. To be published.)
This was originally posted to Dave Farber's IP [Interesting People] list, sort
of an RRE for net geeks. This one's an odd confluence of tech and policy. I've
been meaning to subscribe to this friends-of-Farber list since I met him last
year, and this pushed me over the edge. You can read the paens to IP in People
magazine and his UC Irvine stint early in his career at:
Subscription is by personal introduction, like FoRK.
------- Forwarded Message
The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
Number 37: March 2, 1998
"Long-Term Research and Its Impact on Society"
Last week, Burton Richter, Director of the Stanford Linear
Accelerator Center, and past president of The American Physical
Society (1994), addressed a Senate Forum on "Research as an
Investment." His remarks highlight the contributions that physics
research have made to society, and the importance of federal
support for science. His remarks, entitled "Long-Term Research
and Its Impact on Society," follow:
"It is a privilege to participate with this distinguished group
in this forum on Research as an Investment. My perspective is
that of a physicist who has done research in the university, has
directed a large laboratory involved in a spectrum of research
and technology development, has been involved with industries
large and small, and has some experience in the interaction of
science, government and industry.
"Science has been in a relatively privileged position since the
end of World War II. Support by the government has been
generous, and those of us whose careers have spanned the period
since World War II have, until recently, seen research funding
increase in real terms. Support for long-term research really
rested on two assumptions: science would improve the lives of the
citizens, and science would make us secure in a world that seemed
very dangerous because of the US/USSR confrontation. The world
situation has changed radically, both politically and
economically. The USSR is no more, and economic concerns loomed
much larger as our deficit grew and as our economic rivals became
much stronger. It is therefore no coincidence that federal
support for long-term research peaked in the late 1980's
(according to the National Science Foundation's science and
engineering indicators) and only biomedical research has grown in
real terms since that time.
"The emphasis of this forum, the economic value of public
investment in long-term research, looks at only one of the many
dimensions in the impact of research on our society. In
examining that dimension, it is important to understand the time
scale involved. Product development, the province of industry,
takes technology and turns it into things which are used in the
society. Typically, these days, the product development cycle
runs for three to five years. However, the research that lies
behind the technologies incorporated by industry into new
products almost always lies much further back in time--twenty or
more years. I'd like to make four brief points and illustrate
them with a few examples:
1. Today's high-tech industry is based on the research of
2. Tomorrow's high tech industry will be based on the research
3. The sciences are coupled--progress in one area usually
requires supporting work from other areas.
4. Federal support for research has paid off and will be even
more important in the future.
"Today's high-tech industry is based on the research of
"Telecommunications has been revolutionized by lasers and
fiberoptics, coming from research in the 1960's and 1970's.
Lasers allow much higher communications speeds and much lower
communications costs on cables made of tiny glass fibers that
carry pulses of light instead of electricity. The theory on
which the laser is based goes back much further to work by Albert
Einstein in 1917 (he did work on atomic theory as well as
"The Global Positioning System (GPS) that allows precise
location of anything and anybody anywhere is based on ultra
precise atomic clocks developed for research starting in the
1950's. The GPS system has a growing commercial importance in
activities ranging from transportation to recreation.
"The biotechnology industry is based in large measure on
recombinant DNA techniques developed in the 1970's.
"The explosive growth of the Internet--of such importance to
commerce and information--is the result of four decades of work
by a worldwide research community culminating in the development
of the browser at the NSF's super computer center at the
University of Illinois, and the development of the World Wide Web
by the high energy physicists at CERN in Europe. As a high
energy physicist I can only wish that we had been smarter, and,
instead of having people type WWW when they want to surf the
Internet, we had them type HEP perhaps we would have bigger
budgets now had we done so.
"Tomorrow's high tech industry will be based on the research of
"The semiconductor industry's road map for ever more complex
chips which increase the power of computers will, in about a
decade, run into a regime of such small feature size that the
behavior of even wires is not understood--quantum mechanical
effects will become important.
"The pharmaceutical industry is increasingly moving toward
the design of drugs that interfere with the ability of pathogens
to act. The designs are based on the detailed molecular
structure of the pathogens determined by the structural
biologists using the physicists' x-ray diffraction techniques.
"The human genome project shows promise of developing the
information to treat many health-related problems. It needs the
development by the applied mathematicians of systems to allow
efficient searching of huge data bases.
"The sciences are coupled--progress in one area usually requires
supporting work from other areas.
"HIV protease inhibitors were synthesized by the chemists in
the pharmaceutical industry based on the structure of HIV
protease determined by the biologists using the physicists' x-ray
diffraction techniques. Two of the drug companies finalized
their formulations using the ultra-powerful x-ray beams from
synchrotron radiation sources built by the accelerator builders.
Today, about 35% of the running time on the Department of
Energy's synchrotron radiation sources are used for this kind of
"The development of neural network computing algorithms to
efficiently sort complex multi-dimensional data sets has it
origins in the neurobiologists developing understanding of the
structure of the brain.
"Today, one of the most important treatment methods of
cancer is irradiation with very high-energy x-rays. These x-rays
are generated from small linear accelerators that are scaled-down
versions of the machines made for nuclear physics and particle
physics research. In the U.S. alone there are 3,000 such
accelerators which treat more than 75,000 patients every day.
There are 5,000 of these machines world wide. The first
preclinical trial of this therapy took place in the 1950's.
"Magnetic resonance imaging, the least invasive and most
precise of the medical imaging techniques comes from the work of
the chemists, mathematicians and physicists. The physics work
goes back to 1938 when I.I. Rabi demonstrated nuclear magnetic
resonance (NMR) on one atomic nucleus at a time. NMR in solids
was demonstrated in the late 1940's. The mathematicians
developed the two-dimensional Fourier transformer in the 1960's
which cut the time required for a MRI scan by an enormous amount.
Those among us who have spent 20 minutes inside one such machine
should realize that without that mathematical breakthrough, a
scan of a single patient would take more near to a day.
"Federal support of research has paid off and will be even more
important in the future.
"Patent applications in the United States are supposed to
cite the prior art' on which the particular patent is based. A
recent study of patent applications from U.S. industry shows that
73% of the prior art' cited comes from publicly-funded research.
(F. Narin, K.S. Hamilton and D. Olivastro, The increasing linkage
between U.S. technology and public sciences. To be published.)
"A recent publication from the Brookings Institution and
American Enterprise Institute looks at the impact of R&D on the
economy ( Technology, R&D, and the Economy,' B.L.R. Smith and
C.E. Barfield, editors, 1996). In that book, Boskin and Lau
studied the impact of new technology on economic growth and found
that 30-50% of the economic growth in our society comes from the
introduction of new technologies. Mansfield looked at the
economic returns on research investment and found that they are
40-50% a year, though returns to an individual firm doing
long-term research are much lower because it is not possible for
an individual firm doing long-term research to keep all the
potential benefits to itself.
"The Future Role of Federal Support
"Twenty and more years ago it was true that much new technology
came from long-term R&D done in industry--one need only think of
the glory days of Bell Laboratories, and the IBM, General
Electric, and RCA research laboratories. However, the world
economic system has changed and international competitive
pressures have driven most of the long-term research out of U.S.
industry. Today it is exceedingly rare to find an R&D program in
industry whose time horizon is longer than three to five years to
a product. We may regret this change, but it is real and it has
come about because of deregulation and competition. If one's
rivals don't spend money on research, in the short term they are
going to have a better bottom line and our economic system,
indeed the economic system of all of the developed world, rewards
short-term results and punishes those who don't do as well as
their competitors. Thus, changes in society have made the
federal investment in such long-term research much more important
than ever before.
"As I said earlier, today's high-tech industry is based on the
research of yesterday, and that research was funded at a time
when high-tech industry made up a much smaller fraction of our
GDP than it does today. Since high-tech industry is a much
larger fraction of GDP today than yesterday, and will be even
larger tomorrow, the fraction of the federal budget invested in
long-term research should also be larger. It is odd, and it is
indeed dangerous for the long term, that the converse is true."
Richard M. Jones
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics