President Clinton: Strengthening the Federal Government-University Research Partnership
"More than any other nation in the world, we rely on a partnership between our government and our public and private research universities to conduct research that improves our economy, health, and national security, while also training our future science and technology workforce. It is vitally important that this partnership be equitable and effective to sustain U.S. leadership across the frontiers of scientific knowledge."
President Bill Clinton
December 29, 2000
Research and education lie at the heart of this Administration's investment in America's future. That is why President Clinton has issued an Executive Order that strengthens the research partnership between American universities and the Federal government. The Executive Order establishes the principles that will provide the framework for the development and analysis of future Federal policies and regulations for the government-university research partnership. It also directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy to conduct regular reviews of the research partnership in full consultation with all stakeholders.
One of the hallmarks of the U.S. research enterprise is the reliance on public and private universities to perform basic research in the national interest. Government supported basic research at our nation's universities represents a dual investment in the future of the nation: helping to assure the health, security, and quality of life of our citizens, while also training our future scientific and technical workforce. Recognizing the importance of the synergy in this relationship and of its continued effectiveness, the President has established a set of principles to serve as a sound foundation for this partnership.
For the first time the common goals, rationale and objectives of the partnership are set forth. They are incorporated in four guiding principles:
- Research Is an Investment in the Future. Government sponsorship of university research – not only to conduct research, but also to train the next generation of scientists and engineers – is an investment in the future of the nation, helping to assure the health, security, and quality of life of our citizens.
- The Linkage Between Research and Education Is Vital. The integration of research and education is the hallmark and strength of our nation’s universities. The intellectual development and scientific contributions of students who participate in Federally-sponsored research are among the most important benefits of publicly-supported research.
- Excellence Is Promoted When Investments are Guided by Merit Review. A well-designed merit review system rewards quality and productivity in research, and can accommodate endeavors that are high-risk that have the potential for high pay-off.
- Research Must Be Conducted with Integrity. The ethical obligations entailed in accepting public funds in the conduct of research are of the highest order. The credibility of the collective enterprise relies on the integrity of each of its participants.
The following operating principles are intended to assist agencies, universities, individual investigators, and auditing and regulatory bodies in implementing the guiding principles:
- Agency Cost Sharing Policies and Practices Must be Transparent. Agencies should be clear about their cost sharing policies and announce when and how cost sharing will figure in selection processes, including explicit information regarding the amount of cost sharing expected.
- Partners Should Respect the Merit Review Process. Excellence in science is promoted when all parties adhere to merit review as the basis for distributing Federal funds for research projects and refrain from seeking Federal funds through non-merit-based means.
- Agencies and Universities Should Manage Research in a Cost-Efficient Manner. The goal of all those involved in sponsoring, performing, administering, regulating, and auditing university-based research and associated educational activities of the research enterprise should be to make maximum resources available for the performance of research and education.
- Accountability and Accounting Are Not the Same. The principal measure of accountability must be the research results and whether the work was consistent with the original scope of the proposed research. Equally important, but different, are sound financial accounting methods, which are important to assure research sponsors that public funds have been used properly to achieve the goals in a cost-effective manner.
- The Benefits of Simplicity in Policies and Practices Should Be Weighed Against the Costs. When it comes to simplicity in regulatory, accounting, and administrative practices the goal is to maximize the impact of each research dollar spent. Therefore, one size doesn't necessarily fit all.
- Change Should be Justified by Need and the Process Made Transparent. The process of change in the government-university partnership should be made as transparent as possible. Modifications in administrative, regulatory, auditing requirements, or in cost sharing expectations, should be kept as infrequent as possible but consistent with the need to respond to changing circumstances.