Department of Defense R & D in the University

Science  22 Nov 1974:
Vol. 186, Issue 4165, pp. 706-711
DOI: 10.1126/science.186.4165.706


The DOD carefully evaluates its technical needs and executes programs of sponsored research and development to fulfill them. Thus, while individual projects proceed in accordance with established scientific principles of objectivity, the overall system of DOD funding allows the military to influence the development of science technology. Many have argued that this system of contracts and grants has well served science and the universities. One cannot deny that the influx of money led to rapid progress in selected scientific fields and increased scientific institutions' affluence. With this fact we have no quarrel. However, these same people often continue to argue that the systems of federal funding for science, specifically DOD funding of science, follows merely on the work's scientific merit, not on how it fits any larger scheme. They continue, that, since DOD supports good science for its own sake, the combination of military money and universities strongly encouraging faculty to seek that money encourages healthy competition for faster scientific progress. The DOD's approval process is seen to follow from the scientist up, with the military deciding which proposals for research have the most intrinsic (scientific) merit, then after the fact, thinking up a military justification for congressional budget requests. It is this latter belief with which we take issue. The DOD considers the scientific worth of the proposals for research it receives, but only after it has determined that the proposal fulfills a specific military need.

This fact and its implications for the university as an institution charged with protecting the process by which man discovers new knowledge have been ignored in the debates over DOD sponsored research and development in universities. In addition, the Nixon Administration's efforts to tighten management controls over civilian research, especially in the biomedical and energy areas, promises to further undermine the university's role as an institution charged with fostering a search for truth free from bias in both methodology and subject selection.