Biography and History

The executive committee of the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC), chaired by President Robert Goheen, established the SCSR in May 1970 in response to growing faculty and student outcry over ties between researchers in the Princeton University community and the U.S. Department of Defense. The committee became known as the Kuhn Committee after its chairman, Professor of Mathematical Economics Thomas Kuhn. CPUC charged the committee to recommend how best the University could eliminate sponsored military research activities, but the committee later expanded its mission to cover sponsored research in general. The members of the committee included faculty (both scientists and non-scientists), graduate students, undergraduates, and staff members, as well as two non-voting administrators to advise on technical and financial matters.

During the summer of 1970, Professor Kuhn hired a graduate student assistant, Harold Feiveson, to handle the administrative and much of the research needs of the committee. The two initiated correspondence with dozens of research universities across the United States seeking materials and feedback regarding sponsored research policies and practices. The committee also sought information and advice from Princeton University department chairs and project coordinators involved in sponsored research, as well as professors who had sat on the University Research Board. In August 1970, a few members of the committee visited Washington, where Representative Emilio Daddario (D-Conn.) was conducting hearings on government-sponsored research at universities, and to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which had just finished reformulating its own sponsored research policies.

In the fall, the Kuhn Committee wrote reviews of sponsored research at Princeton and other universities, and sponsored a series of public meetings to canvass the views of the faculty and the student body. Throughout, Kuhn kept the President and Provost William Bowen informed of the committee's progress, and sometimes asked for their reactions and advice. The committee issued its controversial preliminary report in December 1970 and its final report the following June. Kuhn's committee recommended that the University's sponsored research policy be strengthened and its research board be granted more oversight so that ethically inappropriate research projects could be rejected. The committee could find no reason to phase out Department of Defense research altogether, but suggested the University look into the potential negative influence of outside funding in general. Most controversially, the committee recommended that the Classified Library on campus (which required military clearance for access) be slowly phased out. CPUC adopted the committee's recommendations in January 1971, and the faculty agreed to most of the committee proposals in February and March. The faculty did not, however, approve the committee's recommendation regarding the Classified Library, preferring instead to adopt the library committee's proposal to permit access to classified materials by individuals with clearance. The Undergraduate Assembly belatedly took up the subject following the last faculty discussions in March.

The collection provides access to the heart of a debate over the University's mission. The committee wrestled with issues such as the transparency of the administration and the morality of accepting conditional funding from outside sources-especially those tied to the Department of Defense. But the debate also raged among Princeton faculty over the existence of and access to restricted collections, particularly the Classified Library, and the role of the University in restricting faculty freedom to research. Series 7 of the collection provides an excellent introduction to the responses to sponsored research dilemmas at universities across the country.

Source: From the finding aid for AC060

  • Special Committee on Sponsored Research Records. 1965-1972 (inclusive), 1970-1971 (bulk).

    Call Number: AC060

    The Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) established the Special Committee on Sponsored Research (SCSR) in May 1970 to recommend policy regarding often conditional outside funding for research projects at the University. The committee was informally called the Kuhn Committee after its chairman, Professor Thomas S. Kuhn. The collection is comprised of materials collected and maintained by the chairman and his research assistant. Included are files intended for the committee's research purposes (Series 4 through 7), the chairman's personal committee files, a collection of reports and other committee output, and administrative documents and correspondence.