Standing still: Declining support stifles U.S. science research edge

Concern for the nation’s “innovation deficit” has led dozens of organizations to urge Congress to increase fiscal year 2015 investments in scientific research and higher education.

More than 130 organizations signed the letter to Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, chairwoman, and Richard Shelby, R-AL, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, urging policymakers to pass a single, sweeping omnibus bill to fund science-related agencies in  Fiscal Year 2015, rather than a series of resolutions that would simply continue funding at 2014 levels.

Agricultural organization signees include the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, and the American Society of Plant Biologists.

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National business, higher education, scientific, and other organizations noted that leaders in both political parties have "highlighted the need to address the innovation deficit," and that funding bills by both House and Senate Appropriations Committees "would provide for increased investments in scientific research" in 2015 for a number of science agencies.

Congress has “already taken some preliminary steps in this direction,” the letter says, “but none of this matters if Congress makes FY2015 appropriations through a continuing resolution rather than an omnibus bill.”

The innovation deficit, the organizations note, is “the widening gap between the actual level of federal government funding for research and higher education and what the investment needs to be if the U.S. is to remain the world’s innovation leader, producing more discoveries and patents, and more technological and health advances than any other nation.

“Economists have made very clear that these science- and engineering-driven advances have fueled most of our nation’s economic growth in the decades since World War II. Yet today, our leadership faces a serious challenge from other nations that are rapidly increasing their investments in these critical areas while our own spending lags.”

The fact that other nations are building up their research and innovation capabilities is not a bad thing, the letter points out. “The world benefits from stronger research and education in other countries, as well as our own. What should concern us is that those other nations are doing this while the U.S. is essentially standing still.

“This poses a serious challenge to our position as the world’s innovation leader, and the economic and national security benefits that flow from it. Global leadership is a race, and we will lose by standing still.

“As modern Americans, we are accustomed to the economic, health, and national security benefits that emanate from our position as the global innovation leader — and we want our children, and their children, to enjoy them as well. If we lose our global leadership, we will lose the valuable collateral that comes with it, and those losses will occur quickly.”

Read the entire letter here:

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