A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Coming Soon: Straight Talk

Dear Research Advocate:

Just when you thought that there is no good news coming from Washington, it looks as though we have a new congressional champion for research. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) penned a most welcome op-ed in the Asbury Park Press this week. We trust this is just one way he works to convince his constituents and his fellow lawmakers of the high priority the nation should be assigning to research. Championing research can be a heavy lift, since it’s no secret that some policymakers don’t see why government should have any role in R&D. A recent article in Forbes pushes back. As part of the BRAIN Initiative, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is researching a potential breakthrough in healing. It’s a long-shot, but DARPA is known for supporting long shots that have made major contributions to our lives. If the featured research proves successful, it will revolutionize the ability to help wounded warriors – and all of us – heal. It will easily pay for itself many times over. (Just as the GPS – a long-shot, expensive product of federally-funded research – revolutionized our national defense capabilities and has paid for itself over and over again in commercial application. That’s what federally funded research does. It goes where the free market can’t and mines new territory in science and technology. The private sector takes it from there.) The House and Senate defense appropriations bills would both cut funding for DOD-funded R&D. Has shooting ourselves in the foot become a policymaking imperative?

Avoiding shooting ourselves in the foot is one way to frame Research!America’s research forum on September 11. But perhaps more compelling is that China’s investment in research and development is slated to surpass that of the United States in less than a decade. And China is just one nation among several that have taken a page from the U.S. play book with the determination to not just match U.S. prominence in the sciences, but overtake it. Matt Hourihan of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) has put together an extraordinarily useful look at the status of federal R&D funding in the fiscal year 2015 appropriations bills, which is as good an indication as any of where the U.S. is headed in R&D investment. Judging by congressional action thus far in FY15, we may actually reach the tipping point between U.S. and China R&D dominance long before 2023. China is growing its R&D investment, and we are cutting ours.  Not slowing the growth rate, mind you. Our R&D investment is contracting. Do we have to wonder which nation will grow stronger over time?

Join us at our research forum next week and ask the panelists to take that question on. The theme of the forum is “straight talk.” Let’s buck the echo-chamber and really get down to brass tacks. Seats are filling up fast, reserve yours today!
 
Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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