WASHINGTON—A clearer focus and greater financial support from private industry hold the key to the survival of the National Coalition for Science and Technology.
The Coalition, formed in 1981, has struggled to persuade the scientific community that it needs an overtly political organization to advocate greater resources for science. Its new slogan, “NCST—The Science Lobby,” is meant to highlight its broad focus and set it apart from the hundreds of associations and organizations that push for specific programs.
“We're trying to build a paradigm that is foreign to most scientists,” acknowledged Donald Stein, a neuroscientist at Clark University who helped to found the Coalition after serving a one-year fellowship on the Hill. “But I'd like to know what's wrong or inappropriate with direct lobbying to change the minds of the people who make the decisions.”
That approach caused a problem for the American Chemical Society, whose governing body voted last spring not to join. Few scientific societies permit outside organizations to speak for them on scientific issues, noted Annette Rosenblum, manager of the office for science policy at the Society, and most prefer to conduct overtly political lobbying though a political action committee. Other observers, most of whom said they did not want to appear critical of a group
working on their behalf, said the Coalition has had a minor impact on science funding and policy decisions because of its inadequate re sources, its failure to focus on specific issues, and its independence from the informal but well-organized science lobby that already exists.
Plagued by a serious shortage of funds, the Coalition is seeking $15,000 contributions from corporations in such fields as biotechnology, communications and energy—fields that have special reasons to be concerned about the future health of scientific research and development. Combined with smaller contributions from other companies and associations and $35 annual dues from individual scientists, the money would free the Coalition to pursue its ambitious agenda before Congress and within the Reagan administration. The Institute for Scientific Information, which publishes THE SCIENTIST, has contributed $4,250 during the past three years as one of the Coalition's two dozen institutional members.
The Coalition has focused on increasing the authorization of federal funds for basic science within the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Energy. Coalition officials believe that funding for biomedical research is already being addressed by numerous groups, although the group supports their efforts to obtain additional funding.
The Coalition hopes to convince . policy-makers that the nation benefits from an increase in funding for science. Its strategy is openly political—to work with other groups with similar interests,
to sponsor briefings for members of Congress and their staffs, to carry their message to the media, and to enlist its members in the fight through education and personal meetings with their congressional delegation.
The organization is preparing its agenda for the 100th Congress, which convenes in January. Its issues include:
- Expansion of the engineering and university/industry research centers program at NSF;
- Increased launch capacity for scientific research within NASA and support for commercial applications of technology in space;
- Creation of a university research facilities improvement program within NSF; and
- Expansion of research funding for graduate students and postdoctoral students within NSF, NASA and the Department of Energy.