Senator Glenn conveys his thanks to Marshall Nirenberg for the information he provided in response to an inquiry regarding
federal support for scientific and technological research. Glenn welcomes Nirenberg's analysis of past accomplishments
through federal funding and his predictions of future difficulties if such support is discontinued or decreased. Glenn encloses
the results of the survey to which Nirenberg and other Nobel scientists contributed.
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1982-08-06 (August 6, 1982)
United States Senate
Nirenberg, Marshall W.
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Beyond the Laboratory: Professional, Personal, and Political Life, 1967-2002
I want to thank you for the information given in response to my inquiry regarding Federal financial support of scientific
and technological research. Your perspective on the impact that federally funded research has had on your work and achievements
is most valuable to me in my efforts to emphasize the importance of stable and predictable Federal funding of basic research.
I welcome both your analysis of past scientific accomplishments that Federal funding has permitted as well as your predictions
for future difficulties that U.S. science will encounter if such support is discontinued or decreased.
Enclosed are the results of the survey to which you and other Nobel scientists contributed. It is my intention to make the
aggregate data publicly available.
In addition, it might also be useful to have the specific replies released for public view so that the statistics can be verified
by anyone caring to do so. If you would prefer not to have the information which you provided made public in this way, please
let me know and I shall respect your wishes. Again, thank you for the facts and views that you have provided me.
Results Of Survey Of American Nobel Prize Winners Concerning Federal Funding For Research
Letters requesting data were sent to 54 Nobel Prize winners representing all the Americans who won the Prize in Physics, Chemistry,
or Physiology and Medicine during the years 1967-1981. Twenty-eight scientists responded by letter, and nineteen responses
were obtained by telephone. Seven scientists did not respond: The total response rate was 87%.
Scientists were asked if they had received federal support in the course of their research that led to their receipt of the
Nobel Prize, and if so, to offer a brief summary of the type of support received. Furthermore, they were asked to indicate
the importance of the role that federal financial support played in the conduct of their research.
Respondees fell into two distinct categories: Those who received at least half their research support from the federal government
and those who received little or no direct support.
Strength Of Federal Support
Table 1: Summary of data on support from federal government for Nobel Prize winning research (for awards granted during the
Substantial Direct Support (50-100% of funds from gov't): 83% (39/47)*
Little or No Direct Support: 17% (8/47)**
* Of this number, 28 scientists (60% of respondees) received from 90-100% of the financial support for their research from
the government. This category includes 6 scientists who are full time government employees:
4 are employed by NIH, and 2 are employed by the Veterans Administration
** Of the 8 scientists in this category:
a. 4 scientists were industrially supported; 3 work for Bell Laboratories (AT&T) the fourth works for General Electric.
Two industrially supported scientists stressed that they received indirect federal support through the use of federally funded
facilities or through reliance on previously conducted research of other scientists who had been federally funded. Another
scientist offered the opinion that he would be unable to duplicate his research his today without federal funds.
b. Two scientists had carried out most of their prize-winning research prior to World War II when federal funds for research
were not available.
c. One scientist started his prize-winning work before coming to the U.S. and continued it here as a hobby.
d. The work of one prize-winning scientist was indirectly related to his main research efforts (which were federally funded).
Necessity Of Federal Support
Federally funded scientists were asked to evaluate the necessity of federal financial support to the conduct of their research.
Thirty-eight of the thirty-nine scientists who received substantial direct federal support indicated that federal funds were
vitally necessary to their work.
Sources Of Federal Funds
Although scientists were not requested to do so, may federally funded respondees mentioned specific agencies as sources of
their support. This information is tabulated below.
Table 2: Exhibits the percentages of federally funded scientists who mentioned any of the following sources of funds as financially
instrumental in their research.
[TABLE = "Sources Of Federal Funds"]
[TABLE = "Categorization Of Combined Sources"]
* This categorization exhibits percentages of scientists who mentioned the given combined sources of federal funding.