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National Capability Is True Key to Science

August 08, 1993

Rarely has anyone missed the point of a report as completely as Michael Schrage did in his discussion ("Old Ways Fail to Define New Role for Science," June 24) of our new report, "Science, Technology and the Federal Government: National Goals for a New Era."

Schrage makes much of the international character of science, a point entirely understood by our committee, whose members have spent their lives in science--doing research abroad, training foreign graduate students in the United States and even directing the overseas labs of U.S. companies. The point that Schrage misses completely is that without a national--i.e., a U.S.--science capability, we cannot translate the fruits of international science into a practical advantage for our country.

The United States, for example, leads in the emerging biotechnology industry because of our national strength in molecular biology. Scientists of all countries have access to the same body of international scientific knowledge about molecular biology--there are no secrets--but most other countries lack the national capability to be scientific leaders on a large scale and thus reap significant national benefits such as a thriving biotechnology industry. We want this country to have those benefits.

PHILLIP A. GRIFFITHS

and RALPH E. GOMORY

Washington

Griffiths is chairman and Gomory is a member of the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy at the National Academy of Sciences.

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