Optical Society CEO Testifies on Importance of NSF and NIST to US Economic Prosperity

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Publication date: 
2 May 2012

When  testifying before House appropriators, Elizabeth Rogan, CEO of the Optical  Society, urged “continued, sustained investments in R&D programs  at NSF and NIST” that will, she said, “help revitalize U.S. manufacturing,  create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and spur innovations that will lead to  a better quality of life for millions of people in the U.S. and around the  globe.”

Rogan  appeared before the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations  Subcommittee as appropriators were developing their FY 2013 funding bill.  This subcommittee provides funding for the  National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and  Technology. 

The  Optical Society is one of AIP’s Member Societies.  The full text of Rogan’s oral remarks appears  below.  Her written testimony is here.

“Good  morning, Chairman [Frank] Wolf [(R-VA)] and Ranking Member [Chaka] Fattah  [(D-PA)].  My name is Elizabeth Rogan,  CEO of the Optical Society (OSA).   I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the proposed Fiscal Year 2013  budgets for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of  Standards and Technology (NIST), both of which are vital to our nation’s  scientists and engineers.   I would like  to thank you and the subcommittee members for your stewardship in providing  sustained investments in these two critical agencies.

“OSA  unites more than 130,000 professionals from 175 countries and brings together  the global optics community through our programs and initiatives.   Since 1916 OSA has advanced the common  interests of the scientists, engineers and business leaders in the field of  optics and photonics. Optics is a highly specialized branch of physics known as  the ‘science of light,’ which makes possible everything from medical imaging  and solar energy to high-speed computers, LEDs, and laser cutting for  manufacturing.

“Mr.  Chairman, OSA strongly supports the President’s FY2013 budget requests of $7.3  billion for NSF and $857 million NIST for three fundamental reasons.

“First,  these federal investments in research and development (R&D) are vital to  ensuring our country’s long-term economic prosperity and competitiveness. Work  being done in labs and classrooms today leads to the businesses, innovations  and jobs of tomorrow. America’s leadership in science and technology is largely  due to the investment in long-term, basic and applied research in the decades  following World War II. In recent decades however, federal funding as a percent  of GDP has declined in the US, while funding has continued to increase in  countries such as Germany, China, Japan and Korea.

“Second,  they will help re-energize and re-establish U.S. leadership in advanced  manufacturing, creating countless new inventions and products, hundreds of  thousands of jobs and ensuring national security. Our nation’s leadership in  manufacturing has been declining, with 28 percent of high technology  manufacturing jobs lost over the last decade.   The FY13 proposed budgets for NSF and NIST make advanced manufacturing a  top priority, with robust investments in key areas that will heighten the speed  and efficiency of manufacturing processes, produce new state of the art cyber  and communications technologies and improve automation and reliability.

“Third,  researchers need the certainty of sustained funding in order to deliver results  from long-term projects.   Major  scientific breakthroughs, new discoveries and the cutting edge new technologies  that fuel our economy typically take many years to come to fruition, requiring  sustained efforts and funding over multiple years.

“Now  let me give you some concrete examples of the direct benefits sustained federal  R&D investments have had:

“Consider  the laser, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010. Using federal  funding, Theodore Maiman developed the first ruby red laser at Hughes Research  Labs in 1960. At the time of its creation, the laser had few known  applications.  It was known as the ‘solution  looking for a problem.’   Today, the  laser touches virtually all aspects of daily life from bar code scanners to  fiber optics that provide high-speed Internet to life-enhancing medical  technologies such as the three dimensional images of human tissues and laser  eye surgery.  The federal funding used to  create the laser was an investment made a half century ago that is still  creating thousands of jobs and providing billions of dollars in economic  activity today.

“NSF  funded research at the University of California-Davis has transformed the  i-Phone into a medical-quality imaging and a chemical detection device.  The enhanced i-Phone could help doctors and  nurses diagnose blood diseases in remote areas, the military field and  developing nations, where hospitals and rural clinics have limited or no access  to laboratory equipment.  NSF is  supporting transformative research in advanced-technology manufacturing by  investing in research that makes manufacturing processes faster, cheaper and  more efficient

“NIST  research helped fuel the creation of everything from mammograms to  semiconductors which power computers as well as laser tracker measurement systems  used in the aerospace and automotive industries, among others.   NIST research is currently focused on  promoting energy-efficiency and alternative energy sources, both of which save  money and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.  “Mr.  Chairman, these may be difficult economic times but through continued,  sustained investments in R&D programs at NSF and NIST will help revitalize  U.S. manufacturing, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and spur  innovations that will lead to a better quality of life for millions of people  in the U.S. and around the globe.

“Once  again, we greatly appreciate this committee’s leadership and look forward to  working with you as you move forward with the FY13 budget process.”

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