Washington, D.C. – The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has announced a Full Committee hearing on the Future of Science, at 10 a.m., on Friday, November 18, 2005, in Room 562 of the Dirksen Building. The hearing will investigate the changes the U.S. scientific research community has experienced over the past few years. Witnesses will also address concerns that the U.S. is slipping in research, technology innovation, and education, which have been identified as pillars of success for the 21st Century.
The scheduled witnesses include:
STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN TED STEVENS
COMMECE COMMITTEE HEARING ON THE FUTURE OF SCIENCE
November 18, 2005
My apologies. It's a strange morning over there on the floor. And I'm hopeful that some of our colleagues will join us for the information of our guests and witnesses. We've had a little confrontation on the conference report on the Patriot Act, and also on being able to get the Continuing Resolution passed, which must be passed today and get to the President today. He happens to be overseas, so it's a very interesting problem. But let me thank you all for coming.
Through the years, we've been amazed by the results of our nation's scientific research. And because of these advancements, the United States has been able to capture and maintain its leadership position in science and technology. Our history clearly demonstrates our reliance on science. It will undoubtedly serve as the basis for our future growth and success. I'm really pleased to be able to discuss research, technology innovation, and education as the pillars of success for the 21st century with these distinguished gentlemen who are at the table.
Dr. Peter Agre, vice chancellor for science and technology, professor of cell biology, professor of medicine, at Duke University. Dr. Agre received the 2003 Noble Prize in Chemistry for his work for his discoveries concerning channels in cell membranes.
Dr. Eric Cornell, senior scientist, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Technology Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. Dr. Cornell received the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics for his research leading to the landmark 1995 creation of the Bose-Einstein condensate and early studies of its properties.
Dr. James R. Heath, Elizabeth Gilloon Professor of Chemistry of the California Institute of Technology was named by Scientific American as one of its "Top 50 Visionaries" for his research on fabricating, assembling and utilizing nano-computers.
Dr. Samuel C.C. Ting, Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Physics at MIT. Dr. Ting received in 1976 the Nobel Prize in physics for his discovery of the charmed quark, one of nature's basic building blocks.
I do thank you for coming. I regret that this is the day it's happened, when we have so much going on out there that is so controversial. And we were in last night -- left the floor last night at midnight. So I don't know how soon my colleagues will join us.
I do know, however, that you are on television, and you're not only speaking to us, but you're speaking to the country. So I appreciate you coming to testify today. I would hope that your comments will lead us to be actionary rather than reactionary in the fields that you represent. And I not only look forward to your testimony, but I look forward to Jim Heath joining me to fish here in Alaska again soon, and you're all invited sometime.
Chairman Stevens' Questions & Answers with Witnesses
Chairman Stevens: I have in mind taking your speech and repeating it on the floor of the Senate one of these days, Dr. Ting, I'm really grateful to you for coming. This week we've had a visit from the group that was working with Norman Augustine, who used to be the head of Lockheed Martin and is on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. And they have brought to us a report now that's being distributed to every Member of the Congress. I don't know if you're familiar with it. It's called "Rising Above the Gathering Storm."
It is a very important, I think, presentation, and calls upon Congress to respond to the same points that you are making here, only yours are more of a scientific approach. This is an approach for basic inspiration to do something about the underlying problem of the education of our people.
It points out, for instance, that we are in a very difficult situation with regard to our educational process –because, for instance, in 2004, China graduated 500,000 engineers, India 200,000, and America 70,000. And it has a whole series of presentations to us about the necessity to rekindle the support of the federal government for basic education for scientists.
Of course, you go beyond that, and that is basic support for scientists once they're trained. And I think that cause needs to be very highly articulated also. The difficulty that we have is that we seem to be losing our willingness to support the educational process as we have in the past.
And I think we will have to reassess our current approach to education if we're going to meet the challenge that they have given us. They've made two key challenges to us to deal with: beginning a new approach to education from kindergarten to the 12th grade, and then beyond that, the concept of higher education to respond to our needs for the future.
I don't know if you all have seen this report. If you haven't, we'll be glad to get it for you. But I'm very impressed with your presentation here. Can you tell us, where do you get your financing for the research you're doing now? Dr. Agre?
Dr. Agre: Our laboratory was entirely funded by the American taxpayer in the form of NIH grants. As a student, I was able to stay in the laboratory after graduation, delaying my internship support from the U.S. taxpayer in the form of an NIH training grant. And for most of my colleagues, the support is entirely from the U.S. taxpayers. That includes most of the salaries of the individuals.
Chairman Stevens: Dr. Cornell?
Dr. Cornell: The support in my lab comes mainly from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and from the National Science Foundation and a small amount of seed money from a private citizen in the State of Colorado.
Chairman Stevens: Dr. Heath?
Dr. Heath: I direct a cancer center that is aimed at translating nanotechnologies to clinical applications, and that's funded by the NCI. And I also get a significant amount of funding from the DOD and about 10 percent from private enterprise.
Chairman Stevens: And Dr. Ting?
Dr. Ting: I'm quite expensive. (laughter) Throughout my career, I've been supported by the United States Department of Energy, by MIT and also by Johnson Space Center. But most of my support, the vast majority of my support comes from Europe – from Germany, from Switzerland, from France, from Italy and from Russia. My experiment was the largest overseas investment from Russia, from China, from Taiwan and from many, many countries. Even though the foreign countries provide the vast majority of the support, because these experiments were proposed by me and executed by me, they are known as U.S. experiments.
Chairman Stevens: This report shows the cost of one chemist or one engineer in the United States as compared to other countries. A company can hire for one chemist here, five chemists in China – or 11 engineers in India for one engineer in the U.S. One of our problems is the level of our lifestyle and the level of our cost base. What's your answer to that? How can we compete if that is the case, when the foreign people are turning out so many more engineers and scientists than we are? In effect, Dr. Ting, you're getting, as they would say, a bigger bang for the buck over there, aren't you? We have a problem of cost here at home in competing as well as the education of our people. Am I right?
Dr. Ting: Yes. Senator, I can answer in the following way, why this field of high-energy physics, which used to be totally dominated by the United States now is dominated by Europe and Japan. It is because the research discoveries from this field often make quantum jumps in technology. A hundred years ago, high-energy physics was the discovery of the electron. In the 1920s, it was the atom. In the '40s, it was nuclear. And this, even though a dark hand (ph) with fundamental research now has completely changed our lives. And it is because of that that countries like Germany, like Japan and like Switzerland invest so much in this field. I think that's the way I can address this to you, sir.
Dr. Cornell: Senator?
Chairman Stevens: Yes, sir, Dr. Cornell?
Dr. Cornell: Could I address that question? I think it's important to look historically. We used to do a lot of injection plastic molding here. Now it's done in the Philippines. And it's true that your basic unit of chemist is going to be cheaper in India than it is going to be here. I think the strategy we should adopt as a country has been what we've always done, which is to define the cutting edge to be ours. And we continue to have that, although in terms of raw chemist per dollar, it's cheaper in India.
In terms of raw internationally leading chemists per dollar, we remain almost really the place to go, the place where Indians and Chinese and so on come if they want to get research education in the very, very highest end. It's still here in the United States. And that, I think, is where we preserve our lead, sort of, in the high-quality niche market of science, if you like.
Chairman Stevens: We also have figures from this study about the number of foreign students that are in our own universities. The majority of them are from foreign countries and are returning to their countries now. In the past, there was an incentive to stay here. Now, there seems to be an incentive for them to get their education here and go back to their countries or other countries where there are centers of research such as Dr. Ting has outlined. What would be your suggestions on how to deal with that, as far as Congress is concerned?
Dr. Cornell: The international students who come here and then choose to remain represent a vast influx injection of human capital into the United States. It's a marvelous resource, and we should do what we can to hold on to these people. And in particular, I think we should make sure that they feel welcome here – avoid getting them tangled up, for instance, in INS red tape unnecessarily.
Chairman Stevens: They should all come and go fishing with us. Jim knows I go from the esoteric to the sublime and talk about why we're sending all our money overseas for oil and natural gas and not having the development money that comes from those two by developing our own resources. We currently send out of our country more of our own gross national product for energy than any other nation in the world. And as a consequence, our money goes over there, we have to sell our goods cheaper, we have to export our scientists. We don't have the economic base we used to have because we refuse to develop energy here at home. Jim and I are going to have that conversation again this summer, I hope. But sometime we have to find a way to deal with it.
Chairman Stevens: I think what Dr. Ting is telling us is that we ought to find a way to attract the best and the brightest to our country and to insist on it still being a United States experiment. And that's what it is, because Dr. Ting heads it up. There is the basic problem of financing, which is one that I'm too familiar with, having spent more than eight years as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. The amount of funds available for discretionary spending is declining every year. And I don't know any way to make science an entitlement. You know, we have entitlements which automatically come out of the Treasury. Others are discretionary money. The competition for those funds increases drastically each year. But I again want to thank you very much. I again apologize for the time frame. We thought this would be the nicest day because we would be in a quiet session and have everybody just waiting for the Continuing Resolution to come over. And we would be pleased to have a chance to listen to you gentlemen tell us about the role of your institutions and your background in meeting some of these basic problems we face. But I do intend to put your statements in the Congressional Record.
And I also intend to ask you, Dr. Ting, if you'd give me a printout of that. I've never done it before, but I think I'll give your statement on the floor in full. You can't take these PowerPoints on the floor, but I can take printed charts to emphasize your points.
Dr. Ting: It would be an honor for me to do so.
Chairman Stevens: It’s very interesting.
And Dr. Heath, gentlemen, I thank you very much for the suggestion that you could put together a group to come in and really give us a reason to be more interested in what you're doing. And I appreciate very much your efforts.
Dr. Agre, Dr. Cornell, Dr. Ting, we're grateful to you for taking the time. We'll see what we can do to fund some initiatives that might bring you help to support those initiatives, and I'll keep in touch with you about it.
Dr. Eric CornellSenior ScientistNational Institute of Standards and Technology, Technology Administration - U.S. Department of Commerce
Dr. James HeathElizabeth Gilloon Professor of ChemistryCalifornia Institute of Technology
Dr. Peter AgreVice Chancellor for Science and TechnologyDuke University
Professor Samuel C.C. TingThomas Dudley Cabot Professor of PhysicsMassachusetts Institute of Technology