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Casper comments on future of research funding in U.S. SAN FRANCISCO -- After his Feb. 11 address to the Bay Area Council, President Gerhard Casper responded to several questions submitted by members of the audience:
Q: What role do you see Stanford playing in the future development of Silicon Valley and in the area of technology transfer?
A: Stanford's role is to perform the highest quality basic research that one can possibly imagine and to make sure that research gets to those who can get it ready to market in products as quickly as possible.
[On the issue of barriers to effective technology transfer] it is very interesting to me that . . . the CEOs of the high-technology companies on the peninsula do not complain at all about issues of technology transfer. They do not complain about access to the knowledge and information that is generated at Stanford. All they complain about is regulation. All they complain about is that part of the problem that government can do something about.
I think the notion that the universities dramatically need to change their ways in this respect, [at least] in the case of Stanford, is a notion that has not carried much conviction. Stanford will continue to play a very major role in the area of technology transfer. However, if government begins to believe that it can develop the programs of targeted research, that is, it can pick the technology winners, which is a rather peculiar notion after the experience of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe for many decades - if they believe that in Washington, and do it at the cost of conducting basic research in the United States, we will be in deep trouble and we will lose truly, finally our competitive edge in this country.
Q: Your thoughts on the future of funding this research?
A: We are still very much reliant on federal grants, contracts, etc., but all research universities rely on tuition income. Fifty-five percent of our operating budget [not including the formula schools, such as Business and Medicine] is made up of tuition income. That is a dramatic change over a very short period of time. Tuition income accounted for only 45 percent [of the operating budget] a decade ago.
I think it is very interesting that the United States should pull back from the basic decision that was made right after World War II, which was to have basic research conducted in the universities, and to link it to the quality controls that universities have in place and on which the systems of peer review, etc., could build.
In other countries, they went other routes. They built research institutes specifically targeted for specific areas. . . . However, in the United States, we link it to the universities. That's what maintains the vitality of the research enterprise. That is what made us the world's leader. I would be very unhappy if the United States changed course on this, for the reasons I stated.
Q: How committed is Stanford to increase minority representation on the faculty?
A: Stanford's commitment to affirmative action is on course, is in place and remains. But because of the tremendous financial turmoil of the past few years, it has become much more difficult for us to aggressively pursue some of the goals of affirmative action.
I believe that Stanford has accomplished [putting together] the most diverse student body of any major research university in the country, with 45 percent of our student body coming from minority [communities].
Stanford obviously also has to work very hard to increase the representation of minorities on the faculty. There are some ways of doing it, all of which cost money - not just a little money, but a lot of money . . . and I will pay more attention to that problem.
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