Center for Environmental Policy and Administration

The Challenge of Coordinating 'Big Science'

Author:W. Henry Lambright
Date: July 2003
Publication:IBM Center for the Business of Government, New Ways to Manage Series, Washington, DC

In this report, Professor Lambright examines three large-scale research and development programs: climate change, nanotechnology, and the International Space Station. He analyzes the case studies from a unique perspective: how these programs were coordinated among several federal departments and agencies. In the case of the Space Station, international coordination was required. A major premise of this report is that in the future, many governmental programs—not just large-scale research and development programs—will require similar coordination across departments and, in many cases, across nations. The research task undertaken by Professor Lambright was to find lessons from these three case studies that might be applied by other government agencies as they face the challenge of coordinating different programs. As in the case of the Human Genome Project, Professor Lambright found that a key success factor is the importance of setting a clear and focused goal. When the goal is clear and worthwhile, coordination becomes possible. Although some turf battles may occur, the mission often overrides turf concerns. Reflecting on his experience managing the Human Genome Project, Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, commented that what helped that project succeed was “absolute, unquestionable shared commitment to the goal.” In the three new case studies, Professor Lambright concludes again that shared goals and commitment are key.


W Henry Lambright
Center for Environmental Policy and Administration
The Maxwell School, Syracuse University
Revised 06/14/2006 13:06:05