Research Universities: Core of the US science

and technology system

Richard C. Atkinsona, William A. Blanpiedb,_

aUniversity of California, San Diego, CA, USA

bGeorge Mason University, VA 22209, USA


Research universities are a recent innovation, having emerged in Prussia in the early 19th century, and in the United States only in the aftermath of the Civil War. By 1940, perhaps a dozen American universities could be regarded as firstclass research institutions. However, they received virtually no financial support from the US government. The most farreaching recommendation of Vannevar Bush’s famous July 1945 report, Science—the Endless Frontier, was that it was in the nation’s best interest for the federal government to fund university research. From 1950 through the mid-1970s, such federal support expanded rapidly, resulting in the flowering of the American academic research system, but was accompanied by a decline in industrial support. Beginning in the late 1970s, several federal agencies established largely successful programs to encourage university–industry research cooperation as a means of reestablishing links between universities and industry. Other countries have tried to replicate the success of US research universities, but with limited results. Yet despite the success of US universities, they face a number of significant challenges. The record of the past 60 years suggests that they can continue to remain at the forefront in the search for knowledge, but only if they, and the wider US public, understand and are prepared to deal with these challenges.

r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: US Research Universities; US science and technology system; Vannevar Bush; Universities in the middle ages and

enlightenment; University research in Europe and Asia; University–industry cooperative research; Bayh-Dole Act

1. Introduction

Since the 1970s, research universities have been widely recognized as the core of this nation’s science and technology system. Yet until World War II research universities were decidedly on the periphery of that system. Their ascendancy was in large measure due to the remarkable research contributions they made during the war that proved crucial to the war effort. Prior to the war, universities received virtually no federal funding for research, particularly basic research, and the concept of such funding was viewed as a radical idea. The report Science—the Endless Frontier, submitted by Vannevar Bush to President Harry Truman in July 1945, established both the legitimacy and the need for federal support of university research.

Research universities are a relatively recent innovation. For most of their history, beginning in the 11th and 12th centuries, European universities were teaching institutions, which attracted students to lectures by eminent scholars. It was only in the 19th century that German universities began to require their faculties to engage in the production as well as the dissemination of knowledge. The German model began to be replicated in the United States (US) following the Civil War. By the turn of the century there were perhaps a dozen credible research universities in this country, a handful of them approaching world-class status.

US research universities are vital centers for the performance of research that advances knowledge in all science and engineering disciplines, contributing to the national economy as well as to local and regional economies. That the US university system today is undoubtedly the best in the world can be gauged by several indicators, including the number of Nobel Prizes awarded to faculty members, and the fact that US graduate schools are favored destinations for aspiring scientists and engineers from abroad. Several countries have tried to replicate the success of the US university system, but with limited results. One probable reason is that, unlike the circumstances in the United States, most foreign university systems are highly centralized and subject to control by a Ministry of Education.

Yet, US research universities face a number of problems and cannot afford to rest on their laurels or assume that the larger society appreciates the essential role they play in the nation’s well-being. The quality of research and teaching provided by East Asian universities has been improving rapidly in recent years. As in other regions of the world, these universities (particularly in China) aspire to become competitive with universities in the United States, and may have considerable success in the future. However, the record for the past 60 years

suggests that US universities can continue to compete successfully in the world market for knowledge. But they can do so only if they understand the challenges ahead and are prepared to respond to them.

Speech practice:

Activity 1. Discuss the positions of the article. Do you agree with the author.?

Activity 2Tell about your education and research using the following expressions:

1. to be educated at… - получить образование в…

2. to take (pass) exams – сдавать (сдать) экзамены

3. to read much (hard) for the exam – усиленно готовиться к экзамену

4. to do research in (into)… - проводить исследование в области…

5. to read a paper – выступать с научным докладом

6. to attend lectures in … – посещать лекции по…

7. to read for the thesis – читать литературу для диссертации

8. to carry out research in…– проводить исследование …

9. to carry on research in… - продолжать исследование …

10. to be engaged in the study of… - заниматься изучением…

11. to deal with the problem of … – заниматься проблемой…

12. to collect and arrange / process data (facts, observations) – собирать и

упорядочивать / обрабатывать данные (факты, наблюдения)

13. to check the results – проверять результаты

14. to do theoretical work – проводить теоретическую работу

15. to consult one’s scientific adviser – консультироваться у научного


16. to come to the conclusion – приходить к заключению

17. to be through with the experimental (theoretical) part of work -

закончить экспериментальную (теоретическую) часть работы

18. to succeed in obtaining reliable results (data) – успешно получить

надежные (достоверные) результаты

19. to work jointly with… - работать совместно с…

20. to overcome difficulties – преодолевать трудности

21. to be particularly interested in… - проявлять особый интерес

22. to work under… - работать под руководством…

23. to be well-known (distinguished, prominent, outstanding, famous) –

быть известным (выдающимся, знаменитым)

24. to be engaged in the study of … - заниматься исследованием…

25. to be at the head of (in charge of) - возглавлять

26. to hold seminars – проводить семинары

27. to give (deliver) lectures – читать лекции

28. to contribute (make a contribution) to… - вносить вклад в…

29. to make a thorough (complete, detailed, accurate) study of … -

проводить основательное (полное, подробное, точное)


30. to advance (propose, put forward, suggest, develop) an idea (hypothesis,

approach, theory) – выдвигать (предлагать, развивать) идею

(гипотезу, подход, теорию)

31. to search for (adopt, use, make use of) a new (another, better) approach –

искать (принимать, использовать) новый (другой, лучший) подход

32. to win general recognition – получить (завоевать) общее признание

33. to be devoted to… - быть посвященным / преданным (чему-то)

34. to be encouraged with the investigation – быть вдохновленным этим

исследованием; относиться к исследованию с энтузиазмом

35. to consider – считать, полагать, рассматривать

36. major advances in science – крупные успехи в науке

37. thesis (= research paper) – диссертация

38. doctoral/candidate thesis – диссертация на соискание ученой степени

доктора/кандидата наук

39. master’s thesis (=MPhil thesis) – магистерская диссертация

40. PhD thesis – докторская диссертация

41. to prove the thesis = defend the thesis = present the thesis – защищать


42. abstract = paper – реферат

43. summary= synopsis = annotation – аннотация\