Ivan Amato's piece on CVD diamonds {Outlook, Aug. 19} missed some important points. By any materials scientist's reckoning, the CVD diamond process discovery is 10 (a hundred?) times more significant to technology than high-Tc ceramic superconductors. Moreover, its benefits are here and now -- already marketed in half a dozen Japanese commercial products. A major point of the story should have been on the absence, for more than five years, of any national policy in the field.

The federal government spends $150 million to $200 million per year on ceramic superconductors but only $10 million on diamonds. Superconductors got instant policy attention after a media barrage. I brought back the "intelligence" about the fantastic success on diamond films at NIRIM in Japan in February of 1984 and told the corporate and federal agency world about it. Except for the Office of Naval Research, no one paid any attention until the last several months. The technology was ignored because it was N.I.H. -- not invented here.

The CVD diamond story dwelt on the very real glories of the past (GE and its high-presure diamonds in 1955). It could have stressed two less pleasant but equally real aspects of the future. First, an increasingly large (and in useful basic science the dominant) fraction of discoveries will come from abroad. Science policy must avoid the N.I.H. syndrome. And most new useful scientific discoveries, whether made in the United States or abroad, will turn out now to be against our national economic interest. Why? Because the managed technological policies of Germany, Japan, France, etc., have created national "machines" to convert knowledge into products. The U.S. government's doctrinaire position on the generation of knowledge must be reversed.

RUSTUM ROY Founding Director Science, Technology and Society Program Pennsylvania State University University Park, Pa.