Group will study research fundingBy Julio Freidmann
and Mathews M. Cherian
Chairman of the Faculty Arthur C. Smith is organizing a committee to study the history and effects of military and military-related research at MIT.
Professor Vera Kistiakowsky proposed the Committee on MIT Impact of Military Support of Research and Education, the unofficial name for the committee, in a March letter to Smith.
She expressed her and other faculty members' concerns about an apparent trend of increased research funding from the Department of Defense (DOD).
Five faculty members and two students, a group "small enough to meet regularly; a workable group," will serve on the committee, Smith said. The group would receive funding for their research "within reasonable requests," Smith added.
Kistiakowsky expressed reservations over the size of the group. "I think it will be found practically that the committee is too small," she said. Kistiakowsky would like to see four students in the study group.
Smith is compiling a list of faculty members and students to serve on the research group. The faculty will select committee members at its May meeting.
Robin Wagner G, a representative to the Committee on Educational Policy, requested that an economist, political scientist and philosopher/ethicist be included on the committee to help analyze and interpret the data.
The committee would not make policy decisions regarding student life or education, but would be chartered to gather information and conduct research to "find the facts," Smith said.
The study group will strive for political balance and impartiality, according to Smith. He hopes that the group will finish its research over the summer.
Kistiakowsky and Wagner believe it is important for students to serve on the committee and that the group have sufficient resources to support a research staff.
They also agreed that committee members should represent a broad spectrum of political views to prevent a biased analysis of the data they collect.
Kistiakowsky and a subgroup of the cosigners have developed a list of suggestions for a partial agenda for the committee:
O+ How extensive is military-related activity on campus, in terms of the military dollars spent and the number of faculty, students, and staff participating in military-funded programs?
O+ What exactly is the amount of military related research done off-campus through Lincoln and Draper Laboratories, co-op programs and consulting?
O+ Are rules for military-related research the same as those for other research? What effect do the rules imposed by military research have on the choice of research done at MIT?
O+ What effect does the increase in military R&D have on MIT graduates? Are more of them working on defense-related projects?
O+ Is there active recruitment for careers in military-related companies? Is the nature of the employment clearly stated to perspective employees? Is there any relation between employment in military-related work and research done while at MIT?
O+ What is the impact of Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) on campus? Are the number of ROTC students increasing? Does ROTC affect a student's choice of major?
O+ What should the Institute do with the results of the study?
The committee shall report all of its findings to the faculty.
Kistiakowsky and several other members of the MIT community repeated their proposal at the March 20 faculty meeting. Kistiakowsky's letter was signed by over 50 faculty members.
An ad hoc student coalition, composed in part by MIT Student Pugwash and the MIT Disarmament Study Group, of which Wagner is a member, sent a letter to Smith supporting the establishment of the committee. The coalition gathered 283 signatures over three days in favor of the proposed group.