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This phenomenon of change is deeper than converting from military to civilian; it seems to be almost a built-in characteristic of an advanced technical society. For example, the development of a long lasting battery, essential to a practical electric automobile, would have major ramifications for a large percentage of the U.S. work force.
Of course, science and technology are not the only forces causing the rapidity of change and a consequent reemployment and redeployment of trained people. We must also expect to experience—as we are today-changing national and even regional priorities. To a large extent these changes are dictated by the immediate concerns of society,
Today the Nation seems determined to have a sound environmental protection and enhancement program, for example, but a decade ago only a relatively few people championed this cause.
Given a dynamic and changing situation with a number of unpredictable elements, the question arises as to how we can insure the fullest, continuous utilization of our trained scientists and engineers and those in the work force dependent upon them. I would not pretend to have the absolute answer to this question. However, I believe the solution lies primarily in two areas: First, modifications in our educational system to foster greater individual flexibility, and second, the development of more comprehensive and accurate long-range prediction capabilities with respect to future manpower requirements and the impact of technology on society.
In the future, our educational institutions must encourage individuals to be more versatile and flexible. Our working population must be willing to regard learning as a continuous process not one constrained by the prevailing formal training traditions.
In an age of changing technology and changing institutions, many careers may not last more than 10 to 15 years, and the individual must have the continuing opportunity to broaden his capabilities. Instead of the maximum specialization we seem to have emphasized in the recent past, we must encourage maximum adaptability of people and institutions.
No matter how successfully we reform the educational process so as to instill flexible attitudes in the new young people who are coming along, we still have to make our society work for and with the people who are already in it. We can't jettison existing scientists and engineers as though we were throwing out old newspapers. We must learn to recycle them for our changing needs.
Some years will elapse before contemplated reforms in the educational structure can begin to produce a substantial impact, and in the meantime we have to provide constructive employment and keep the economy running with the kind of people we already have on hand. We have no choice but to “teach old dogs new tricks."
In this connection, a great deal is spoken and written about retraining aerospace engineers and other specialists for participation in the attack upon societal problems. Much less is said about the specific employment situations we are going to retrain them for.
Now I think it is psychologically obvious that the retraining of a man already in his midforties is likely to proceed much more effectively if it occurs on the job than if it is carried out as an abstract exercise in the classroom. The object of retraining is not to keep our universities busy, nor even to keep the trainees occupied—but to insure
the constructive utilization of the trainees over the long-term future. We must adapt and recondition jobs along with the men.
People are employed and technical projects executed by organizations; when the institutional structure becomes deranged, so does project execution and technical employment. This may be seen very clearly in Seattle and other concentrations of aerospace or defense industry along the west and east coasts.
Some of our largest engineering corporations—and therefore largest employers of technically educated people—are, as you know, in very precarious condition.
At this point, it does little good to moralize about why they got there or whose fault it is or whether the defense and aerospace industries are “virtuous” activities. I think it makes more sense to ask whether we can't develop a greater flexibility in our large organizations and institutions so that it won't be necessary to dismantle
old institutions and fabricate a whole set of new ones.
This dismantling of old organizations and establishment of new ones is a process that takes time-probably a lot more time than is required to retrain the narrowest specialist in a new field of endeavor.
So, if we don't want extended periods of severe dislocation of the technical labor market and consequent loss of social results and human energy, it seems to me that we need to study very carefully how old institutions can be adapted to perform new tasks, and not only now but also in the future.
Senator KENNEDY. I think this is probably a good point of departture to consider NSF's role in the legislation we have introduced, in terms of seeing whether we can't get the NSF to be an old dog that learns a few new tricks too.
This brings us to a basic question. Those of us who are very much concerned about maintaining the nation's scientific capability, recognize that the principal organization we must rely on is the National Science Foundation. So we are caught in the dilemma of wondering how we accomplish the transition of defense-related scientific energies into the areas of civil or social need.
We recognize the progress that has been made under your leadership in NSF's traditional grant programs and others, and wonder whether the reasoning you have mentioned in your testimony is applicable in terms of the NSF? In any event wouldn't you agree with me that we need some kind of an agency or institution that is going to assume some responsibility in these areas?
I find it so difficult to respond to scientists who used to be engaged in defense work, and who knew what was needed and where to turn.
But today we don't have an agency of government that gives us at least some indication of scientific needs in terms of meeting the problems of our country.
And I suppose I am asking you how you see NSF responding to these needs. How is NSF modernizing or moving into this area? What flexibility and adaptability is the agency demonstrating?
How do you look at it? What do you see ahead for NSF, particularly given the areas of need that we have in this country to move from defense-related work into areas of civilian need? Being particularly mindful of the kinds of anxiety and distress that is being felt, not only by the tens of thousands of scientists and engineers and technical people who are unemployed, but also the anxiety of hundreds of thousands of others who have seen the unemployment rate jump over the period of the last year or so, and are not particularly sanguine about future job possibilities.
Dr. McElroy. Mr. Chairman, we are concerned with this. We are not so sure that we have an answer to the bigger unemployment problem. Hopefully the economic system will turn around so that more jobs will be created.
We are convinced that a greater investment in R. & D. in this country will increase productivity and increase jobs, and we think in a modest way the RĀNN program is going after this.
We are attempting not only to create more job opportunities through the RANN program, but I think more specifically to utilize science and technology to work on some of these major societal problems, which is the point you are very much concerned with-transportation, housing, pollution.
Senator KENNEDY. Of course, the dimensions of that investment are extremely modest. How much Federal investment does it take to create one scientific or engineering job?
Dr. McElroy. We figure about $50,000 to $100,000 per scientist. But we could make a big impact here, and I have indicated this before. The administration has moved somewhat in this direction.
For the people who have Ph. D. degrees, at least temporarily one can make use of these people in post-doctorate programs; but that is only a short term solution, not an adequate, long-term solution. And I must admit I am not so sure the foundation has any unique suggestions to make with regard to turning the economy around, except we would argue that a greater investment in R. & D. would have an impact.
Senator KENNEDY. Of course, even through the RANN programı, you are still really only touching the tip of the iceberg in terms of unemployed scientists.
Dr. McELROY. That's correct.
Senator KENNEDY. What do you think should be the responsibility of the NSF in terms of these areas?
Dr. McElroy. Well, that is a good question, and I am not so sure we have an adequate answer for it, Mr. Chairman. Since we believe that the fundamental problem is creating job opportunities, we would like to argue that a greater investment in R. & D. in the long run is the way to create job opportunities, and I think it is fair to say the administration has this under intensive study, whether we shouldn't invest in a greater R. & D.
We think we can demonstrate quite clearly that the balance of trade, for example, can be affected by greater investment in R. & D., and certainly the balance of payments would be greatly affected by the creation of new industries, creating new equipment which is essential for progress in science.
That type of investment is the way to go to create new jobs. And I think if we did that, then certainly NSF would have a big role to play in terms of certain types of R. & D.
Still, the mission-oriented agencies are now the ones with the biggest amount of money. I would hate to see NSF distorted in terms of large amounts of money.
But in terms of temporary, short-term effects, we look at postdoctoral employment and it's a program of that type which would solve two things.
We think we would have a significant impact. I think we can estimate that, say a million dollars, for example, could put about 150 people to work on these programs. Now it doesn't take too many million, as you can see, to put these 50,000—which is a rough estimate of those presently unemployed-back to work.
Here again, it's a question of the economy. How you turn the economy around, the philosophy of economic investment, et cetera. I am not an expert on that, Mr. Chairman.
Senator KENNEDY. Just turning the economy around, or increasing the GNP, or getting some lowering of interest rates-I am not so sure that such measures are sufficient to put scientists back to work.
I mean, you can put a lot of people back to work in terms of the auto industry, or in terms of cosmetics, or in terms of service industries. But I don't know whether that will result in putting people back to work in terms of the technical and scientific community.
Dr. McElroy. Well, I think here we would have to have more detailed facts on what universities and colleges have been doing in regard to hiring. It is our impression that there are a number of positions opening up that are not being filled because of economic reasons, in universities and colleges.
There certainly will continue to be an increase in the population of college students, as well as graduate students. And this is going to require greater manpower.
It is our belief that these jobs will be filled in the immediate future, as soon as the universities get back into fiscally good shape.
Senator KENNEDY. It almost seems as if those people go back to work for the colleges and produce more technicians and scientific personnel
Dr. McElroy. They are going to continue to expand.
Senator KENNEDY. I am not completely sure I see the relationship as clearly as you may-between a general bottoming out or slight upswing in the economy and movement back to work of these highly trained, highly technical, highly skilled scientists and engineers. I realize that the best social program we can have is a healthy economy. This is certainly the case in terms of New Bedford and Fall River and Lowell and Lawrence; but I'm not so sure this holds true in terms of Lincoln and Concord and the whole 128 Belt where the Massachusetts technical community is concentrated.
And I am interested in how you view a general kind of upswing in terms of the economy--which we all hope will take place in phase II. Can we rely on that alone, so to speak, in terms of hoping to get these scientific and technical people back to work?
Dr. McElroy. Well, my concern is more of a negative feedback on the production of highly trained people. I am afraid we are going to overreact and in 7 or 8 years we will find a real deficiency in highly trained people again.
We are already seeing some of this in our best institutions graduate enrollment in too many institutions in this country was down an average of 11 percent last year and another 4 percent this vear, and we are already seeing negative feedback at the high school level
of youngsters wanting to go into science, and so forth. So maybe it's of immediate concern in terms of the people.
I am saying I don't think you can depend entirely on the university for highly technical people, but there are a lot of opportunities being created there. We assume the student-faculty ratio is going to remain the same. There will be increased opportunities there until the late 1970's.
Senator KENNEDY. These younger people—I suppose the older ones as well—their view of the whole profession is going to be tainted, to perhaps a significant extent, as to the real concern and commitment of the Federal Government to interest itself in their particular problems and difficulties, which have been created through really no fault of their own, but rather through a very dramatic buildup and then a very dramatic decline in Federal expenditures for R. & D. I suppose as a professional educator with a deep concern for the Nation's scientific resources, you must-in looking down the road apace you must be concerned by how these technical and highly competent people are viewing their future. Whether they are going to be tossed about on the shifting tides of Federal programs; or whether there are those within the Federal Government who have a real interest and concern about their welfare and who will provide real leadership in assuring their effective utilization in the future.
Dr. McElroy. It's true that NSF, I believe, does have a responsibility, particularly with the more highly trained people, at least that has been our concern in the past.
It's a more generalized problem that requires much broader governmental participation than just NSF. In that regard, I should submit the rest of my statement for the record, and we can discuss some specifics that I think are important.
Let me mention just one, our intergovernmental relationship program under RANN, where we are trying to help local governments understand how to apply science and technology to some of their local problems, and here I believe we can help open the door.
It isn't an immediate solution to the major unemployment problem, but I think it will create opportunities in the long run for highly trained people in moving into local, as well as Federal Government, opportunities, and in trying to help some of these major problems.
I think you are going to see a number of highly trained people moring out of the research mode of the past 15 to 20 years in the university environment, much more into a research mode in the urban and suburban environment.
I think this will create a large number of opportunities. The other thing I mentioned earlier; in terms of our studies, investment in R. & D. is, we think, extremely important in creating new technology.
Just take the equipment of industry alone, there are a number of small businesses that will be created in the future, as they start moving into creating new equipment and new types of things along this line.
So these are the types of things we can do with the NSF. But we think, frankly, that the bigger job lies outside of NSF.
Senator KENNEDY. Well, we will have your statement in its entirety printed in the record as if read.
(The prepared statement of Dr. W. D. McElroy follows:)