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COSEPUP made a second, complementary recommendation for U.S. science policy:
The United States Should Maintain Clear Leadership in Selected Fields of Science.
Again, COSEPUP would amend that to include engineering research. The selection of fields for clear world leadership should be informed by scientific and engineering input but in the end should generally rest on societal judgment, not a scientific judgment. It is a judgment that money spent to obtain clear leadership will give a large societal return. That return could be in providing industry leadership (as in molecular biology) or in a rapid advance in our ability to deal with diseases, or in a contribution to a better environment—whatever it is that our society values and in which clear world leadership would make a difference.
The fields in which clear leadership is a goal should be defined by government policy-makers in close collaboration with interested groups, including especially the generators and users of science and technology. Policy-makers should be fully informed of the comparative assessments of the U.S. position in scientific fields (by international benchmarking). Choosing fields in which the United States should maintain clear leadership is a different kind of process from deciding on the most promising directions for research in a given field of science or engineering.