“Now is not the time to rest on past success” declares a statement endorsed by more than 250 corporations, universities and scientific associations calling for increased federal support of basic research, improvements in U.S. STEM education, streamlining of regulations burdening researchers, a reaffirmation of merit-based peer review, and changes to tax and immigration laws.
Entitled “Innovation: An American Imperative,” the 515 word statement is signed by the CEOs or Chairmen of Northrop Grumman, Merck & Company, Microsoft, Novartis and other prominent corporations and organizations. The American Institute of Physics and seven of its Member Societies – Acoustical Society of America, American Association of Physicists in Medicine, American Association of Physics Teachers, American Astronomical Society, American Meteorological Society, American Physical Society, and The Optical Society – have joined more than 250 organizations endorsing this statement.
The support expressed for the statement and its call for “steady and sustained real growth in funding of at least four percent for basic scientific research” at federal departments and agencies supporting the physical sciences comes as Congress develops the FY 2016 appropriations bills. Although each chamber has made significant progress toward completing the twelve appropriations bills, proposed increases in basic research funding have been considerably short of this goal.
The statement refers to a report issued by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014 entitled “Restoring the Foundation: The Vital Role of Research in Preserving the American Dream.” This 152-page report was issued by a committee of notables in academia, private industry, and the federal executive and legislative branches. The committee’s cochairs were Norman Augustine and Neal Lane. A 36-page brief of the report was also issued. The report’s Executive Summary declares: “The American research enterprise is at a critical inflection point. The decisions that policy-makers and leaders in science, engineering, and technology make over the next few years will determine the trajectory of American innovation for many years to come. Recent data show that the United States has slipped to tenth place among OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations in overall research and development (R&D) investment as a percentage of GDP and continues to fall short of the goal of at least 3 percent adopted by several U.S. presidents.”
Responding to this and other cautionary reports, the following statement was issued:
INNOVATION: AN AMERICAN IMPERATIVE
A call to action by American industry, higher education, science, and engineering leaders urging Congress to enact policies and make investments that ensure the United States remains the global innovation leader.
Our nation knows what it takes to innovate: a sustained commitment to scientific research, a world-class workforce, and an economic climate that rewards entrepreneurship and innovation. As the most dynamic and prosperous nation in the world, the United States has long benefitted from policies and investments that have promoted innovation and in turn driven productivity and economic growth, bolstered American trade, ensured our health and national security, and safeguarded the American dream. Our leadership is now at risk because of years of under-prioritizing federal scientific research investments and policies that promote innovation.
Now is not the time to rest on past success. As noted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in its 2014 Report Restoring the Foundation: The Vital Role of Research in Preserving the American Dream, “There is a deficit between what America is investing and what it should be investing to remain competitive, not only in research but in innovation and job creation.” Competitor nations are challenging our leadership by copying our playbook for success. At the same time our nation’s support for scientific research and innovation is stagnating. If these trends continue, other countries will soon surpass the United States as the global innovation leader.
We must heed the warnings in the Restoring the Foundation report and other salient reports of the past decade and act decisively. In particular, Congress must:
Renew the federal commitment to scientific discovery
by ending sequestration’s deep cuts to discretionary spending caps and providing steady and sustained real growth in funding of at least four percent for basic scientific research at: the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, USDA, and NOAA;
Make permanent a strengthened federal R&D tax credit
as a part of comprehensive tax reform to encourage more private-sector innovation investment here in America instead of in competitor countries;
Improve student achievement in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM)
through increased funding of proven programs and incentives for science and math teacher recruitment and professional development;
Reform U.S. visa policy
to welcome and keep highly educated international professionals, particularly those holding STEM degrees from U.S. universities;
Take steps to streamline or eliminate costly and inefficient regulations
and practices governing federally funded research to help unburden researchers to focus more time on conducting research and training the next generation of scientists, engineers, health care professionals, and business leaders;
Reaffirm merit-based peer review
as the primary mechanism major federal agencies should employ in making competitive scientific research grants to ensure the most effective use of taxpayer dollars; and
Stimulate further improvements in advanced manufacturing
through support for programs aimed at accelerating manufacturing innovation and new federal-industry-academic partnerships.
We, the signatories, urge support for these actions to keep the United States the global innovation leader. We stand ready to do our part.
This statement and a list of endorsing individuals and organizations are available here.