The U.S. effort in science and technology is healthy and, despite proposed federal budget cutbacks, will remain so in years to come, the president's science adviser maintained yesterday.
"We do not intend to retreat from the support of science," said Dr. George Keyworth, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He warned against "panic" and "paranoia" by the scientific community.
Keyworth's commments were not entirely persuasive, however, to many scientific leaders attending a special National Academy of Sciences meeting called to respond to proposed budget reductions.
They expressed concern that the administration's plans are not sufficient to sustain the collective health of their enterprise and contended that the administration does not adequately appreciate the importance of science and technology in rehabilitating the economy and maintaining national defense.
They also complained that they had not been warned or properly consulted about what they regard as dramatic funding changes.
"We are not all that healthy," said Dr. Lawrence Bogorad of the Harvard University Biological Laboratories. He argued that it "will take a long time to heal" from planned cuts, including an across-the-board 12 percent reduction, particularly since many young scientists would be affected at the beginning of their careers.
"Our concern" is not just "parochial," said Dr. Harold T. Shapiro, president of the University of Michigan. Reducing the investment in science, he maintained, would "hit at the very goals we have as a country," whether in defense or economic recovery.
Yesterday's session was the first in a two-day attempt to bring together nearly 100 top scientists, including eight Nobel laureates, from universities, laboratories and private companies across the country in hopes of developing a statement on future research and development budgets.
The meeting attracted administration officials from several government research funding agencies, ranging from the National Science Foundation to the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as Keyworth and Frederick A. Khedouri, an associate director of the Office of Management and Budget.
The administration is proposing nearly $40 billion in research and development expenditures in fiscal year l982. More than half goes to defense spending, which is receiving significant increases, while most other research programs would receive reductions of varying magnitude in spending power. Khedouri asserted that the sciences are flourishing in comparison to social programs.
During yesterday's discussions, public and private reactions of the scientists to the presentations seemed to be divided between those who want to fight hard to restore funds for research and those who feel the best strategy is to adjust to cutbacks and use available money better.
Nobel prize winner Herbert Simon of Carnegie Mellon University concluded that the dilemma need not be resolved. He said he hopes the group, which is to complete its recommendations today, will advise government officials of what it thinks is a "good level" of funding while suggesting that scientists would be "highly cooperative" in working with "whatever funds are available to us."