Book note on Science and the Federal Patron

by Robbie McClintock

Science and the Federal Patronby Michael D. Reagan
New York: Oxford University Press, 1969. vi, 346 pp. $6.95.

Published in the Comparative Education Review, Vol. XIV, No. 2, February 1970, pp. 113-4.

Length: 250 words

Since fair science developed costly tastes, a major problem of public policy concerns how to support science without spoiling it. Reagan shows how ad hoc procedures have accreted, in the American case, into a complicated system of public support. This system, he suggests, is severely challenged: federal support is biased towards the natural sciences even though the social sciences are of increasing significance for public policy; federal support has massive, troublesome effects on higher education because it promotes too much scientific research and too little scientific education in the universities; and federal support is allocated without adequate means for setting rational priorities in the competition for scarce funds. Although Reagan makes informed, dear-headed suggestions, his discussion ignores the important question for comparative education: as science becomes dependent on the federal patron, it becomes nationalized. For instance, priority of natural over social science in federal support has resulted largely from the political priority of national defense over social reform, not from pure intellectual priorities. Thus, without intending it, Science and the Federal Patron underlines the need for students of comparative education to establish to what degree divergent patterns of national patronage have diminished the universalism of science and the possibility of a cosmopolitan education.