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Science and Employment: You Must Remember This, The Fundamental Things Apply As Time Goes By

Here are some pointed questions about science, innovation, and technological progress:

First: What can be done, consistent with military security, and with the prior approval of the military authorities, to make known to the world as soon as possible the contributions which have been made during our war effort to scientific knowledge?

The diffusion of such knowledge should help us stimulate new enterprises, provide jobs for our returning servicemen and other workers, and make possible great strides for the improvement of the national well-being.

Second: With particular reference to the war of science against disease, what can be done now to organize a program for continuing in the future the work which has been done in medicine and related sciences?

The fact that the annual deaths in this country from one or two diseases alone are far in excess of the total number of lives lost by us in battle during this war should make us conscious of the duty we owe future generations.

Third: What can the Government do now and in the future to aid research activities by public and private organizations?

The proper roles of public and of private research, and their interrelation, should be carefully considered.

Fourth: Can an effective program be proposed for discovering and developing scientific talent in American youth so that the continuing future of scientific research in this country may be assured on a level comparable to what has been done during the war?

New frontiers of the mind are before us, and if they are pioneered with the same vision, boldness, and drive with which we have waged this war we can create a fuller and more fruitful employment and a fuller and more fruitful life.

War should be understood as the military actions in Asia and the war on terror.

By now you all may have wondered, “What the heck is Deven doing talking about war (good God, y’all, what is it good for)?” Or something like that. And some of you may have figured out that all of the above except “War should be understood as the military actions in Asia and the war on terror”, which I threw in to try and seem like the ideas are from today, is from President Roosevelt’s letter to Vannevar Bush.

Funny how little changes overtime. Jobs, medical progress, public/private collaboration, the future of science education are all on our minds today. They have been a core issue since at least 1944. The full history of Science the Endless Frontier is hosted by the NSF. It is a fun read. Well, if you are absurdly nerdy, it is a fun read.

There are many things to enjoy in the report. One part that jumped out at me is his idea about employment and science. I may write more as I digest the report in general. For now take a read:

Scientific Progress is Essential — For the Public Welfare: (closest link to the passage)

One of our hopes is that after the war there will be full employment. To reach that goal the full creative and productive energies of the American people must be released. To create more jobs we must make new and better and cheaper products. We want plenty of new, vigorous enterprises. But new products and processes are not born full-grown. They are founded on new principles and new conceptions which in turn result from basic scientific research. Basic scientific research is scientific capital. Moreover, we cannot any longer depend upon Europe as a major source of this scientific capital. Clearly, more and better scientific research is one essential to the achievement of our goal of full employment.

How do we increase this scientific capital? First, we must have plenty of men and women trained in science, for upon them depends both the creation of new knowledge and its application to practical purposes. Second, we must strengthen the centers of basic research which are principally the colleges, universities, and research institutes. These institutions provide the environment which is most conducive to the creation of new scientific knowledge and least under pressure for immediate, tangible results. With some notable exceptions, most research in industry and Government involves application of existing scientific knowledge to practical problems. It is only the colleges, universities, and a few research institutes that devote most of their research efforts to expanding the frontiers of knowledge.

Today we may swap the rest of the world for Europe, but otherwise I think the point holds up rather well.