BOX 5.1 Effects of Government Support on U.S. Research and Data Activities

The ability of private-sector technological development in the United States to thrive without the kind of centrally organized institutional framework and industrial policy apparatus typical of the European Community and many other nations1 has stemmed in good measure from the large public investments in basic research and development that were made after the late 1950s, in response to Cold War pressures and national security interests. In retrospect, the success of the U.S. innovation system, despite its apparent anarchical character, can be seen as linked to public funding of academic institutions and specialized laboratories, whose research product has paved the way for private industrial applications.2 In this context, the fact that federal funding also largely defrayed the costs of collecting and disseminating raw and elaborated scientific data merits particular attention.

Throughout the Cold War period, and extending into the present, the U.S, government has reinforced its subsidies of fundamental research with a policy of open exchange of scientific data. This policy was promoted internationally through the government's bilateral science and technology cooperative agreements and increasingly in recent years through both bilateral and multilateral agreements concerning various large-scale research programs and projects. None of these agreements, however, has broadly encompassed all scientific research activities. Instead, they typically have been limited to scientific cooperation and related protocols for the exchange of data according to the special interests of a geographic region, scientific discipline or subdiscipline, or specific projects undertaken by the parties to the agreement. In the rise of the United States to become the world's leading producer of technological goods and scientific information, the government's role in ensuring an open supply of data to the scientific community under favorable economic conditions has been a constant stabilizing factor.

  • 1  

    See, e.g., Margaret Sharp and Keith Pavitt (1993), "Technology Policy in the 1990s: Old Trends and New Realities," J. Common Mkt. Stud, 31:129, 138-39, table 1.

  • 2  

    See Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council (1995), Evolving the High Performance Computing and Communications Initiative to Support the Nation's Infrastructure, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

sive copying and manipulation. While this facilitates value-adding uses from one perspective, from another, it undermines the data provider's ability to recover costs, much less to generate a profit.

A second change is that, in many areas of research, the separation has diminished between basic research, where intellectual property rules are more concerned with attribution of ideas and findings than with the appropriation of published material, and applied research, where intellectual property and proprietary concerns predominate. This conjunction has been especially evident in computer

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement