During his final month in office, President Clinton took a step
toward strengthening the research partnership between the U.S.
government and the nation’s universities. On December 29, he
issued an executive order that, for the first time, sets out the
goals, principles, and responsibilities guiding the federal-
university partnership in a consistent way across all federal
departments and agencies. “More than any other nation in the
world,” Clinton said, “we rely on a partnership between our
government and our public and private research universities to
conduct research that improves our economy, health, and national
security, while also training our future science and technology
workforce. It is vitally important that this partnership be
equitable and effective to sustain U.S. leadership across the
frontiers of scientific knowledge.”

In April 1999, Clinton called on his National Science and
Technology Council to “develop a statement of principles that
clearly articulates the roles, responsibilities, and expectations
of each of the partners and establishes a framework for
addressing future issues as they arise.” The resulting document
identifies the following four guiding principles and six
operating principles that “shall provide the framework for the
development and analysis of all future Federal policies, rules,
and regulations for the Federal Government-University research
partnership.” In parentheses behind each principle are
explanatory points quoted from a White House press release.


(1) Research is an investment in the future. (Government
sponsorship of university research for training as well as
research helps assure “the health, security, and quality of life
of our citizens.”)

(2) The integration of research and education is vital. (“The
intellectual development and scientific contributions of
students…are among the most important benefits of publicly-
supported research.”)

(3) Excellence is promoted when investments are guided by merit
review. (A good merit review system… “can accommodate
endeavors that are high-risk that have the potential for high

(4) Research must be conducted with integrity. (“The credibility
of the collective enterprise relies on the integrity of each of
its participants.”)


(1) Agency cost-sharing policies and practices must be
transparent. (“Agencies should be clear about their cost sharing
policies and announce when and how cost sharing will figure in
selection processes…”)

(2) Partners should respect the merit review process.
(“Excellence…is promoted when all parties adhere to merit
review…and refrain from seeking Federal funds through non-
merit-based means.”)

(3) Agencies and universities should manage research in a cost-
efficient manner. (“The goal…should be to make maximum
resources available for the performance of research and

(4) Accountability and accounting are not the same. (“The
principal measure of accountability must be the research results
and whether the work was consistent with the original scope of
the proposed research. Equally important, but different, are
sound financial accounting methods…”)

(5) The benefits of simplicity in policies and practices should
be weighed against the costs. (“[T]he goal is to maximize the
impact of each research dollar spent. Therefore, one size
doesn’t necessarily fit all.”)

(6) Change should be justified by need and the process made
transparent. (“[C]hange in the government-university partnership
should be made as transparent as possible.
Modifications…should be kept as infrequent as possible but
consistent with the need to respond to changing circumstances.”)

The order calls for “each executive branch department or agency
that supports research at universities [to] regularly review its
existing policies and procedures to ensure that they meet the
spirit and intent of the guiding and operating principles stated
above.” It also directs “OSTP, in conjunction with the National
Science and Technology Council, [to] conduct a regular review of
the Government-University research partnership and prepare a
report on the status of the partnership. The OSTP should receive
input from all departments or agencies that have a major impact
on the Government-University partnership through their support of
research and education, policy making, regulatory activities, and
research administration. In addition, OSTP may seek the input of
the National Science Board and the President’s Committee of
Advisors for Science and Technology, as well as other
stakeholders, such as State and local governments, industry, the
National Academy of Sciences, and the Federal Demonstration

Finally, “This order does not create any enforceable rights
against the United States, its agencies, its officers, or any

In related news on the presidential transition, President
Clinton’s science advisor and OSTP director Neal Lane has
announced plans to return to Rice University this month to become
University Professor in Rice’s Department of Physics and
Astronomy. He will also become a Senior Fellow at the James A.
Baker Institute of Public Policy of Rice University. Lane was
Provost of Rice and a physics professor there before becoming
Director of NSF in 1993.

Audrey T. Leath
Public Information Division
The American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3094