Philosophical Society of Washington

The Politics of Science 2000

Daniel S. Greenberg

2115th Meeting Abstract
Friday, February 25, 2000 at 8:15 P.M.


The relationship between American science and the federal government changed much in the 1990's. The end of the cold war accelerated a shift in emphasis from national security to economic competitiveness and health. Life sciences overtook the physical sciences in federal funding. Industry became the predominant source of funds for research and development overall. Civilian research spending caught up to military spending by the federal government.

The federal commitment to research remains strong, but ideological differences persist over the appropriate government role in the support of commercially related research. Through federal R&D funding has increased, it remains insufficient to satisfy all the aspirations of the large, expensive and mature scientific enterprise. Tensions exist among various disciplines and institutions. For example, the social and behavioral sciences regard themselves as relatively neglected and underutilized. In the space sciences, planetary research feels the cost pressure of the space station.

There's been little change in the federal scientific organization since the creation of NASA in 1958. Questions to be examined: Would R&D benefit from creation of a federal department of science? Has NIH become too unwieldy for the progress of biomedical research? Would creation of NIH II be advisable? And has the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy outlived its usefulness?

About the Author:

Daniel S. Greenberg is a journalist specializing in the coverage of science and health policy. Since 1976, he has written a syndicated column on these subjects for The Washington Post and other newspapers, and for the past 10 years he has corresponded for the British journal The Lancet, covering health politics in Washington. While continuing these writings, he is now a visiting scholar in the Department of History of Science, Medicine and Technology at Johns Hopkins University while writing a book to be published this year by the University of Chicago Press. Mr. Greenberg's articles have appeared in many well-known journals.

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