RES.STP-001 | January IAP 2011 | Graduate

Science Policy Bootcamp

Class Sessions

Class 2 - The Organizing Framework Behind US Science Agencies

Session Overview


Students will take away from this class the foundational concepts that led to the way the US organizes its science and technology mission agencies, and review alternative models that led to more connected science systems.


The class will start with a review of key organizational developments in science, technology and health federal support, focusing on the organizational models for the missions of those science-support organizations. Potential strengths of government-supported R&D (selection neutrality and long-range focus) as well as concerns (peer review tending toward incremental progress not breakthroughs and isolation from application connections) will be discussed. The pre-WWII organization will be briefly noted, then the transformation of science during WWII under Vannevar Bush and Alfred Loomis, and the creation of the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation after the war.

The review will focus on the overall organizational structure and as part of that note the following developments:

  • Alfred Loomis and the FFRDC (Federally-Funded Research and Development Corporation) model at MIT’s RadLab – the outside contract R and D entity.
  • The origins at Los Alamos of the National Energy Labs – the in-house basic science challenge model.
  • Vannevar Bush and the “Endless Frontier” – in the wake of WW2’s focus on applied research, Bush’s proposal for government science support focused on fundamental research.
  • Origins of NSF based on federal support of outside, university-based fundamental research, under Vannevar Bush’s model.
  • Origins of DARPA based on a focused revolutionary research outside industry-university collaboration model. There will be a discussion focus on the DARPA organizational model as an organizing alternative to the V. Bush basic research model. DARPA’s role in innovation on both the institutional and personal levels of innovation will be reviewed.
  • Also noted will be the Bayh-Dole Act and the role of University research in development with industry.

Lecture Notes

Innovation at the Institutional Level: The Organization of Federal Science Support (PDF – 1.3MB)


Required Reading

Bonvillian, William B. “Power Play – The DARPA Model and U.S. Energy Policy.” The American Interest 11 (November/December 2006): 39-48.

Other Readings for Discussion

Hart, David. Forged Consensus. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780691026671. [Preview with Google Books]

Stokes, Donald E. Pasteur’s Quadrant, Basic Science and Technological Innovation. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997, pp. 1-25, 45-57, and 58-89. ISBN: 9780815781776.

Ruttan Vernon W. Is War Necessary for Economic Growth? Military Procurement and Technology Development. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 21-31, 91-111, and 115-129. ISBN: 9780195188042. [Preview with Google Books]

Course Info

As Taught In
January IAP 2011
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes