The last time the Ford Foundation gave Harvard a large research grant for the study of international affairs, back in late 1959, the University apparently paid little attention to how the money was spent. Research centers already in existence merely queued up in the bread line and took home enough money to last them five years. As far as anyone can remember, little assessment was made of the research needs of international studies and little effort was expended to fill in the weak spots in what was being done at the time.
Under the terms of last week's $12.5 million grant, $5.5 million will be available for research projects over a five-year period beginning in September. That is no small amount, and the bread line is already forming. Although President Pusey has wisely formed a six-man, University-wide committee to supervise the distribution of the money, there is a very real danger that the history of the first grant will repeat itself, that awards will be made to the various centers according to their size, respectability and influence rather than the value of their research.
Before Pusey's committee begins parceling out its money, it must carefully decide where the money is needed. For a number of very important reasons we believe that the committee should devote a disproportionately large amount of the grant to the study of non-Western areas.
Research in nuclear weapons policies, Western alliance strategy and other topics in strictly "Western area" studies has tended to receive substantial support from agencies in the Federal government and private corporations like the Rand Corporation. Research in non-Western areas receives no such sizeable support. The University could do much to put such non-Western studies on an equal footing throughout the nation by making a point of giving them top priority.
American foreign policy confronts its greatest problems in trying to deal with countries in these non-Western regions. Many of these problems stem quite obviously from a lack of knowledge and understanding of these countries that more extensive long-run research would do much to remedy. The Ford Foundation's stress on the value of "inter-disciplinary and comparative research" was especially welcome in this respect, for a truly "cultural" understanding of non-Western regions has not yet been approached.
One of the greatest weaknesses in the University's curriculum at present is its paucity of courses on non-Western, developing nations. Since courses are often generated by expanding knowledge of the subjects, and since Dean Ford has said many times that few professors are qualified to teach in these areas, the powerful incentive of research grants to students of these countries would inevitably help develop the personnel needed to fill this gap.
Finally, and possibly most important, a good deal of recent research on the problems of Western strategy has grown increasingly sterile as it has become more specialized and as the territory has been more closely explored. The University presumably cares about the importance of the results its grants can bring and investments in the less explored and potentially more productive non-Western regions would bring very lucrative returns.