Layers of Interests, Layers of Influence: Business and the Genesis of the National Science Foundation

Science, Technology and Human Values 19 (3):259-282 (1994)
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Abstract

Historical analyses of the genesis of the National Science Foundation have given insufficient attention to the role of business in the legislative struggle to establish a postwar research policy agency. This has led to an incomplete understanding of the defining characteristics of the final NSF legislation. Agency focus on basic research has heretofore been interpreted largely as a response to scientists' interests rather than to those of scientists and business. Moreover, the concern of industry with the intellectual property provisions of the legislation has also been underappreciated. In this article, the standard history of the genesis of the National Science Foundation is revised by dissecting the concerns of business with NSF legislation and the role of business in shaping the legislation. The character and influence of industry on proposals for a National Science Foundation are clarified through an examination of three distinct ways in which industry shaped National Science Foundation legislation. The article concludes that in the debate over the establishment of the NSF, interests and influence must be seen as layered, overlapping, and blurred.

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