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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Public Investment in Science Works For US, too

Originally posted at the Breakthrough Institute

On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), were joined by university leaders and researchers to launch a new initiative, ScienceWorksForUS, as part of a press conference discussing ARRA-backed funding for research, recovery, and reinvestment opportunities. The science initiative, whose new website went live on Tuesday as well, is being sponsored by the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and The Science Coalition (TSC).

ScienceWorksForUs is a collaboration of the AAU, APLU, and TSC to demonstrate the positive impact that direct government funding, in this case the stimulus dollars from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), can have on university research efforts.

While ScienceWorksForUS focuses on general scientific research, the AAU and APLU are part of a growing consensus of experts that have called for direct public funding for clean energy R&D on the order of $15 billion dollars per year. In addition, the AAU and APLU joined the Breakthrough Institute this summer, as well as 100 universities, professionals, and youth groups, in submitting a letter to Congress asking them to fully fund President Barack Obama's national math and science education program, RE-ENERGYSE, a program which needs to be funded in FY2011.

The press conference and ScienceWorksForUS bring to light some of the important research projects being funded by ARRA and underscore the importance of investments in research and development in a range of areas, including clean energy.

Pelosi remarked at the event:

"Through our ongoing support for researchers across the country, we will ensure that the Recovery Act was not the end of our investment in innovation, but the beginning of a sustained commitment to science."

University of Arizona President Robert Shelton expanded:

"...these investments are even more important as part of the 'Reinvestment' component of ARRA. The funds for research are part of the reinvestment the nation must make to grow a strong economy that is based on addressing 21st century challenges, including improving health and meeting energy needs in ways that help slow climate change."

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), who recently joined the Breakthrough Institute and Third Way to support a call for a new National Institutes of Energy, added:

"When we invested nearly $22 billion in the Recovery Bill for scientific discovery, we set the stage not just for job creation today, but for the economic growth of tomorrow. It is vital for our long-term economic prosperity that we maintain this robust commitment to scientific research and development."

As Holt suggests, the investments in research and innovation made by ARRA are crucial, but innovative sectors, such as the clean energy sector, run the risk of falling off a funding cliff if more long-term support is not guaranteed, in this case by pending climate and energy legislation. Institutions, like a National Institutes of Energy, dedicated to targeting long-term investments to promising research efforts are critical to maintaining the "robust commitment to scientific research and development" that Holt says the U.S. needs.

Neglecting to dedicate long-term investments in clean energy R&D could have serious economic implications for the United States. A recently released report by the Breakthrough Institute and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), finds that Asia's "clean tech tigers" - China, South Korea, and Japan - will out-invest the United States in research and development and calls for the United States to increase its R&D spending or risk ceding leadership in clean energy innovation, and the associated economic benefits, to these Asian nations. Congressman Holt joined Breakthrough and ITIF at the release event earlier this week to highlight how critical these investments in science, innovation and technology are to U.S. competitiveness in the clean energy race.

By offering specific information about funding recipients, ScienceWorksForUS, should be a resource for policymakers looking to make the much-needed public investments in research and development, particularly those working to craft pending climate and energy legislation in the Senate. As this new initiative showcases, the direct investments in research made under ARRA are having significant impacts on innovation in the United States. If the U.S. wants to ensure the continuation of the important work that ARRA has germinated, policymakers must ensure that these investments are not just short-term stimulus measures, but large, long-term, direct investments in the innovation that drives the U.S. economy.

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