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UCLA Magazine Fall 2002
The Little Marias
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Fall 2002
Science & Society
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For the past 50 years, the federal government has provided continuous and growing support to develop the underlying science, technology and knowledge that helped us build these capabilities. This began, in large part, as a result of the significant role that science played in winning World War II. Since then, our enterprise of scientists and engineers has been responsive to the changing context of society.

In a 1994 speech at the National Academy of Sciences, the late Rep. George E. Brown Jr. ’46 of California, science’s best friend and most constructive critic in the Congress, said: “We must have … a research system that arches and bends with society’s goals.” The larger context determines the direction in which this movement occurs; the research enterprise arches and bends to national needs. Our accrued knowledge from decades of federal government research support is already serving new objectives brought about by the events that began on September 11. The nation’s science policy will move us in the direction of national necessity.

Civilizations have always used their science and engineering knowledge to remediate an existing problem or to address a current need. Now we need to increase our emphasis on envisioning future possibilities, good or ill, as a mechanism to predict. Scientific knowledge can be an effective predictor, but prevention requires more. The research community needs to find more-effective methods to use its capacity to predict in order to meet real-world needs through prevention. When foresight directs our actions and the use of knowledge, we are a lot less likely to fix the present at the cost of the future.

New, more complete knowledge always replaces current knowledge in a process of constant renewal. This makes an unshakable case for consistent research in all eras, at all times, and for our continued support of our research communities, particularly our universities where, in addition to generating the truly new ideas that define the future, every dollar invested contributes to developing and training the next generation of researchers and educators.

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