Questions from the Office of Science and Technology Policy for the PKAL community

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (Executive Office of the President) asked PKAL to solicit responses from its community to a series of questions in regard to improving "the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the Federal research and development enterprise, in a manner cognizant of currently available resources."

These questions will be explored also at a regional forum in Minnesota on November 12, 2003 and at a summary forum in Washington in mid-December. The questions posed in the August 6, 2003 Federal Register are presented below. The period for comments has been extended through December 9, prior to the final forum in Washington DC.

The intent of these questions [and the purpose of the forums which they say emerged from discussions with NIH Director Zerhouni], is to:

  • facilitate a strong, coordinated effort across federal agencies to identify and address important policy implications arising from the changing nature of basic and applied research

  • examine the concomitant influence these changes have had or should have on business models and business practices for the conduct of basic and applied research sponsored by the Federal government and carried out by academic and other entities

  • review the challenges to improved performance and mechanisms for more transparent accountability of the research enterprise.

If you have thoughts about any of the following questions, you may send them directly to Please copy, so we can track and distill comments for a general PKAL response.

This might be a topic for departmental and/or divisional discussions on your campus, since the outcomes of these forums have the potential to reshape (or reaffirm) policies and practices that support the research environment in our nation’s colleges and universities. Perhaps the grants administrator and/or business officer on your campus might join the discussion.

This is a significant opportunity to be heard.

QUESTIONS (from the Federal Register):

  • Accountability. What constitutes accountability for the Federally-supported research enterprise? How can performers best demonstrate results or return on Federal research investments? [Please suggest mechanisms whereby research managers can more transparently demonstrate responsible use of public resources?

  • Inconsistency/Federal Agencies. Can you identify specific Federal policies and practices that if simplified would improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the research enterprise?

  • Inconsistency/Campuses. What is the prevalence and impact of state and institutional requirements that are added to Federal requirements for research funding?

  • Regulatory Requirements. Is there a more efficient approach to meeting the intent of the current suite of administrative requirements and regulations? [Please provide examples.]

  • Research Support. How can public funding echanisms and policies encourage or discourage innovative approaches to research? Does the current process for research funding encourage or discourage innovative research? How do support mechanisms influence the mix of investigators supported?

  • Multidisciplinary/Collaborative Research. Are any funding organizations... employing funding mechanisms or strategies that are particularly effective in encouraging multi-disciplinary work, collaborative activities and other innovative approaches? Are there any data available relevant to these questions?

  • Research Infrastructure. What information is available to examine policies at the Federal, state, local or institutional level that affect research infrastructure and the costs of building maintaining and/or operating the research infrastructure? What factors influence performers' investments in research infrastructure? What data are available to demonstrate that? What information is available on the mix of sources used to finance research infrastructure?

  • Information Technology. How has information technology impacted the efficiency, performance, or costs of research management? Are there data to demonstrate any effect?

  • Technology Transfer Optimization. Are data available to examine whether intellectual property and patent agreements have changed relationships among universities, industry, and the government?