Lecture Videos

Class 5, Part 1: The Innovation System at the Institutional Level & The Organization of Federal Science Support

Description: Class 5 will review 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 disconnect from application) will be discussed.  The focus will be first on the post-WWI organization and the ideologies of federal science support that evolved on in that period, then the transformation of science during WWII under Vannevar Bush and Alfred Loomis, and the creation of the postwar science agencies, with a particular focus on the National Science Foundation. The review will also touch on a number of the following developments:

  • Alfred Loomis and the FFRDC (Federally-Funded Research and Development Corporation) model at MIT’s RadLab – the outside contracted R and D entity;
  • Vannevar Bush and the “Endless Frontier”—in the wake of WWII’s focus on applied research, Bush’s opposing 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;
  • The origins of most of the other federal research agencies based on the Bush fundamental research model, including the Office of Science at DOE, health research at NIH, and the Navy’s ONR. 
  • The contributions to major technology advance of federal basic research.

The class will close with a classic critique of weaknesses in the Bush model.  Part one of two.

Instructor: William Bonvillian

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2017
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