Dueling Visions for Science

promoted by Rosi

I wrote this for Science; and it was published a few days ago. I thought my friends in the Blue Jersey community might be interested in this issue too.

– Rush Holt

A clash is under way in Washington, DC, between two starkly different visions for the U.S. government’s role in research and development (R&D). The outcome of this debate will shape the nation’s scientific landscape for years to come.

The first vision is a grim and pessimistic "No, we can’t" view. Its proponents insist that the federal government can play no substantive role in advancing science or technology. The argument is that the government has been ineffective, that "investment" is a code word for wasteful spending, and that the only way forward is for the government to lower its sights, stop making new investments, and scale back spending. This view is encapsulated in the recently enacted Budget Control Act of 2011, which demands $2.4 trillion in federal spending cuts. Considering that, as a share of the U.S. economy, the government’s support for R&D has fallen by nearly two-thirds since the 1960s, I have little doubt that R&D will bear more than its share of these latest cuts.

A hard spending cap forces false choices: Should the United States invest in badly needed new science instrumentation or in educating inner-city kids? The truth is that the nation must invest in many things. Fortunately, there exists another, far more hopeful vision for the federal government, one that rejects the notion that government budgeting must begin with a hard cap. The recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 demonstrates how federal investment in R&D can drive the economy forward. I was part of the negotiations that put $22 billion of new R&D funding into science agencies, like the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. How many jobs did these funds create, and how many more will they create in the future? We won’t have the final answer for years. How many lab technicians have been hired, and how many electricians wired the labs? The accounting is difficult now, and until the scientific and technological accomplishments have reverberated through the economy, the full effect cannot be known. It appears that the short-term benefits are similar to those of shovel-ready construction projects, and for the long term, past experience is very promising. The return on spending by the NSF over the decades appears to be very large. And the most comprehensive study of the economics of the Apollo space program found that its $25 billion in government investments returned $181 billion to the economy.

Science is usually a smart investment for a nation’s future, and is more important today than ever before. America’s inflation-adjusted borrowing costs have fallen to historic lows. When the private sector is not making enough investments and consumers are not spending, Congress should make the investments that will pay large dividends: public and private scientific research, education in science and engineering, and infrastructure projects to support scientific growth. An investment-focused vision for America could begin by fulfilling the commitments made in the America COMPETES Act, enacted in 2007 and reauthorized in 2010. That law authorized a doubling of the budgets at key science agencies and created the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to fund transformative research on energy technologies. If Congress were to fulfill that law’s vision for scientific investment, it would both create good-paying jobs today and lay the groundwork for a far stronger economy tomorrow.

This will be a daunting task. With the Budget Control Act, Congress appears to have said, in effect, that federally sponsored science has no role to play in advancing the economy, that unemployment is a problem that only time will cure, and that the nation’s best days are behind us. How contrary to American tradition that would be! It must not prevail.

Dueling Visions for Science

I wrote this for Science; and it was published a few days ago. I thought my friends in the Blue Jersey community might be interested in this issue too. – Rush Holt

A clash is under way in Washington, DC, between two starkly different visions for the U.S. government’s role in research and development (R&D). The outcome of this debate will shape the nation’s scientific landscape for years to come.

The first vision is a grim and pessimistic "No, we can’t" view. Its proponents insist that the federal government can play no substantive role in advancing science or technology. The argument is that the government has been ineffective, that "investment" is a code word for wasteful spending, and that the only way forward is for the government to lower its sights, stop making new investments, and scale back spending. This view is encapsulated in the recently enacted Budget Control Act of 2011, which demands $2.4 trillion in federal spending cuts. Considering that, as a share of the U.S. economy, the government’s support for R&D has fallen by nearly two-thirds since the 1960s, I have little doubt that R&D will bear more than its share of these latest cuts.

 

A hard spending cap forces false choices: Should the United States invest in badly needed new science instrumentation or in educating inner-city kids? The truth is that the nation must invest in many things. Fortunately, there exists another, far more hopeful vision for the federal government, one that rejects the notion that government budgeting must begin with a hard cap. The recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 demonstrates how federal investment in R&D can drive the economy forward. I was part of the negotiations that put $22 billion of new R&D funding into science agencies, like the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. How many jobs did these funds create, and how many more will they create in the future? We won’t have the final answer for years. How many lab technicians have been hired, and how many electricians wired the labs? The accounting is difficult now, and until the scientific and technological accomplishments have reverberated through the economy, the full effect cannot be known. It appears that the short-term benefits are similar to those of shovel-ready construction projects, and for the long term, past experience is very promising. The return on spending by the NSF over the decades appears to be very large. And the most comprehensive study of the economics of the Apollo space program found that its $25 billion in government investments returned $181 billion to the economy.

Science is usually a smart investment for a nation’s future, and is more important today than ever before. America’s inflation-adjusted borrowing costs have fallen to historic lows. When the private sector is not making enough investments and consumers are not spending, Congress should make the investments that will pay large dividends: public and private scientific research, education in science and engineering, and infrastructure projects to support scientific growth. An investment-focused vision for America could begin by fulfilling the commitments made in the America COMPETES Act, enacted in 2007 and reauthorized in 2010. That law authorized a doubling of the budgets at key science agencies and created the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to fund transformative research on energy technologies. If Congress were to fulfill that law’s vision for scientific investment, it would both create good-paying jobs today and lay the groundwork for a far stronger economy tomorrow.

This will be a daunting task. With the Budget Control Act, Congress appears to have said, in effect, that federally sponsored science has no role to play in advancing the economy, that unemployment is a problem that only time will cure, and that the nation’s best days are behind us. How contrary to American tradition that would be! It must not prevail.

Dueling Visions for Science

I wrote this for Science and it was published a few days ago. I thought my friends in the Blue Jersey community might be interested in this issue too. – Rush Holt

A clash is under way in Washington, DC, between two starkly different visions for the U.S. government’s role in research and development (R&D). The outcome of this debate will shape the nation’s scientific landscape for years to come.

The first vision is a grim and pessimistic “No, we can’t” view. Its proponents insist that the federal government can play no substantive role in advancing science or technology. The argument is that the government has been ineffective, that “investment” is a code word for wasteful spending, and that the only way forward is for the government to lower its sights, stop making new investments, and scale back spending. This view is encapsulated in the recently enacted Budget Control Act of 2011, which demands $2.4 trillion in federal spending cuts. Considering that, as a share of the U.S. economy, the government’s support for R&D has fallen by nearly two-thirds since the 1960s, I have little doubt that R&D will bear more than its share of these latest cuts.

A hard spending cap forces false choices: Should the United States invest in badly needed new science instrumentation or in educating inner-city kids? The truth is that the nation must invest in many things. Fortunately, there exists another, far more hopeful vision for the federal government, one that rejects the notion that government budgeting must begin with a hard cap. The recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 demonstrates how federal investment in R&D can drive the economy forward. I was part of the negotiations that put $22 billion of new R&D funding into science agencies, like the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. How many jobs did these funds create, and how many more will they create in the future? We won’t have the final answer for years. How many lab technicians have been hired, and how many electricians wired the labs? The accounting is difficult now, and until the scientific and technological accomplishments have reverberated through the economy, the full effect cannot be known. It appears that the short-term benefits are similar to those of shovel-ready construction projects, and for the long term, past experience is very promising. The return on spending by the NSF over the decades appears to be very large. And the most comprehensive study of the economics of the Apollo space program found that its $25 billion in government investments returned $181 billion to the economy.

Science is usually a smart investment for a nation’s future, and is more important today than ever before. America’s inflation-adjusted borrowing costs have fallen to historic lows. When the private sector is not making enough investments and consumers are not spending, Congress should make the investments that will pay large dividends: public and private scientific research, education in science and engineering, and infrastructure projects to support scientific growth. An investment-focused vision for America could begin by fulfilling the commitments made in the America COMPETES Act, enacted in 2007 and reauthorized in 2010. That law authorized a doubling of the budgets at key science agencies and created the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to fund transformative research on energy technologies. If Congress were to fulfill that law’s vision for scientific investment, it would both create good-paying jobs today and lay the groundwork for a far stronger economy tomorrow.

This will be a daunting task. With the Budget Control Act, Congress appears to have said, in effect, that federally sponsored science has no role to play in advancing the economy, that unemployment is a problem that only time will cure, and that the nation’s best days are behind us. How contrary to American tradition that would be! It must not prevail.

Dueling Visions for Science

I wrote this for Science and it was published a few days ago. I thought my friends in the Blue Jersey community might be interested in this issue too. – Rush Holt

A clash is under way in Washington, DC, between two starkly different visions for the U.S. government’s role in research and development (R&D). The outcome of this debate will shape the nation’s scientific landscape for years to come.

The first vision is a grim and pessimistic “No, we can’t” view. Its proponents insist that the federal government can play no substantive role in advancing science or technology. The argument is that the government has been ineffective, that “investment” is a code word for wasteful spending, and that the only way forward is for the government to lower its sights, stop making new investments, and scale back spending. This view is encapsulated in the recently enacted Budget Control Act of 2011, which demands $2.4 trillion in federal spending cuts. Considering that, as a share of the U.S. economy, the government’s support for R&D has fallen by nearly two-thirds since the 1960s, I have little doubt that R&D will bear more than its share of these latest cuts.

A hard spending cap forces false choices: Should the United States invest in badly needed new science instrumentation or in educating inner-city kids? The truth is that the nation must invest in many things. Fortunately, there exists another, far more hopeful vision for the federal government, one that rejects the notion that government budgeting must begin with a hard cap. The recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 demonstrates how federal investment in R&D can drive the economy forward. I was part of the negotiations that put $22 billion of new R&D funding into science agencies, like the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. How many jobs did these funds create, and how many more will they create in the future? We won’t have the final answer for years. How many lab technicians have been hired, and how many electricians wired the labs? The accounting is difficult now, and until the scientific and technological accomplishments have reverberated through the economy, the full effect cannot be known. It appears that the short-term benefits are similar to those of shovel-ready construction projects, and for the long term, past experience is very promising. The return on spending by the NSF over the decades appears to be very large. And the most comprehensive study of the economics of the Apollo space program found that its $25 billion in government investments returned $181 billion to the economy.

Science is usually a smart investment for a nation’s future, and is more important today than ever before. America’s inflation-adjusted borrowing costs have fallen to historic lows. When the private sector is not making enough investments and consumers are not spending, Congress should make the investments that will pay large dividends: public and private scientific research, education in science and engineering, and infrastructure projects to support scientific growth. An investment-focused vision for America could begin by fulfilling the commitments made in the America COMPETES Act, enacted in 2007 and reauthorized in 2010. That law authorized a doubling of the budgets at key science agencies and created the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to fund transformative research on energy technologies. If Congress were to fulfill that law’s vision for scientific investment, it would both create good-paying jobs today and lay the groundwork for a far stronger economy tomorrow.

This will be a daunting task. With the Budget Control Act, Congress appears to have said, in effect, that federally sponsored science has no role to play in advancing the economy, that unemployment is a problem that only time will cure, and that the nation’s best days are behind us. How contrary to American tradition that would be! It must not prevail.

Dueling Visions for Science

I wrote this for Science and it was published a few days ago. I thought my friends in the Blue Jersey community might be interested in this issue too. – Rush Holt

A clash is under way in Washington, DC, between two starkly different visions for the U.S. government’s role in research and development (R&D). The outcome of this debate will shape the nation’s scientific landscape for years to come.

The first vision is a grim and pessimistic “No, we can’t” view. Its proponents insist that the federal government can play no substantive role in advancing science or technology. The argument is that the government has been ineffective, that “investment” is a code word for wasteful spending, and that the only way forward is for the government to lower its sights, stop making new investments, and scale back spending. This view is encapsulated in the recently enacted Budget Control Act of 2011, which demands $2.4 trillion in federal spending cuts. Considering that, as a share of the U.S. economy, the government’s support for R&D has fallen by nearly two-thirds since the 1960s, I have little doubt that R&D will bear more than its share of these latest cuts.

A hard spending cap forces false choices: Should the United States invest in badly needed new science instrumentation or in educating inner-city kids? The truth is that the nation must invest in many things. Fortunately, there exists another, far more hopeful vision for the federal government, one that rejects the notion that government budgeting must begin with a hard cap. The recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 demonstrates how federal investment in R&D can drive the economy forward. I was part of the negotiations that put $22 billion of new R&D funding into science agencies, like the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. How many jobs did these funds create, and how many more will they create in the future? We won’t have the final answer for years. How many lab technicians have been hired, and how many electricians wired the labs? The accounting is difficult now, and until the scientific and technological accomplishments have reverberated through the economy, the full effect cannot be known. It appears that the short-term benefits are similar to those of shovel-ready construction projects, and for the long term, past experience is very promising. The return on spending by the NSF over the decades appears to be very large. And the most comprehensive study of the economics of the Apollo space program found that its $25 billion in government investments returned $181 billion to the economy.*

Science is usually a smart investment for a nation’s future, and is more important today than ever before. America’s inflation-adjusted borrowing costs have fallen to historic lows. When the private sector is not making enough investments and consumers are not spending, Congress should make the investments that will pay large dividends: public and private scientific research, education in science and engineering, and infrastructure projects to support scientific growth. An investment-focused vision for America could begin by fulfilling the commitments made in the America COMPETES Act, enacted in 2007 and reauthorized in 2010. That law authorized a doubling of the budgets at key science agencies and created the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to fund transformative research on energy technologies. If Congress were to fulfill that law’s vision for scientific investment, it would both create good-paying jobs today and lay the groundwork for a far stronger economy tomorrow.

This will be a daunting task. With the Budget Control Act, Congress appears to have said, in effect, that federally sponsored science has no role to play in advancing the economy, that unemployment is a problem that only time will cure, and that the nation’s best days are behind us. How contrary to American tradition that would be! It must not prevail.

* Economic Impact of Stimulated Technological Activity (Midwest Research Institute, Kansas City, MO, November 1971).

Dueling Visions for Science

I wrote this for Science and it was published a few days ago. I thought my friends in the Blue Jersey community might be interested in this issue too. – Rush Holt

A clash is under way in Washington, DC, between two starkly different visions for the U.S. government’s role in research and development (R&D). The outcome of this debate will shape the nation’s scientific landscape for years to come.

The first vision is a grim and pessimistic “No, we can’t” view. Its proponents insist that the federal government can play no substantive role in advancing science or technology. The argument is that the government has been ineffective, that “investment” is a code word for wasteful spending, and that the only way forward is for the government to lower its sights, stop making new investments, and scale back spending. This view is encapsulated in the recently enacted Budget Control Act of 2011, which demands $2.4 trillion in federal spending cuts. Considering that, as a share of the U.S. economy, the government’s support for R&D has fallen by nearly two-thirds since the 1960s, I have little doubt that R&D will bear more than its share of these latest cuts.

A hard spending cap forces false choices: Should the United States invest in badly needed new science instrumentation or in educating inner-city kids? The truth is that the nation must invest in many things. Fortunately, there exists another, far more hopeful vision for the federal government, one that rejects the notion that government budgeting must begin with a hard cap. The recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 demonstrates how federal investment in R&D can drive the economy forward. I was part of the negotiations that put $22 billion of new R&D funding into science agencies, like the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. How many jobs did these funds create, and how many more will they create in the future? We won’t have the final answer for years. How many lab technicians have been hired, and how many electricians wired the labs? The accounting is difficult now, and until the scientific and technological accomplishments have reverberated through the economy, the full effect cannot be known. It appears that the short-term benefits are similar to those of shovel-ready construction projects, and for the long term, past experience is very promising. The return on spending by the NSF over the decades appears to be very large. And the most comprehensive study of the economics of the Apollo space program found that its $25 billion in government investments returned $181 billion to the economy.*

Science is usually a smart investment for a nation’s future, and is more important today than ever before. America’s inflation-adjusted borrowing costs have fallen to historic lows. When the private sector is not making enough investments and consumers are not spending, Congress should make the investments that will pay large dividends: public and private scientific research, education in science and engineering, and infrastructure projects to support scientific growth. An investment-focused vision for America could begin by fulfilling the commitments made in the America COMPETES Act, enacted in 2007 and reauthorized in 2010. That law authorized a doubling of the budgets at key science agencies and created the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to fund transformative research on energy technologies. If Congress were to fulfill that law’s vision for scientific investment, it would both create good-paying jobs today and lay the groundwork for a far stronger economy tomorrow.

This will be a daunting task. With the Budget Control Act, Congress appears to have said, in effect, that federally sponsored science has no role to play in advancing the economy, that unemployment is a problem that only time will cure, and that the nation’s best days are behind us. How contrary to American tradition that would be! It must not prevail.

* Economic Impact of Stimulated Technological Activity (Midwest Research Institute, Kansas City, MO, November 1971).

Comments (4)

  1. Hopeful
    Reply
  2. Rosi Efthim

    Thought you might also enjoy this clip of the congressman on Dylan Ratigan (ignore the 28-second ad):

    Reply
  3. deciminyan

    No great technological (and consequently economic) achievement comes without assuming some level of risk. For the really great challenges, the risk associated with them is too great for even the most monied corporation to assume. Take, for example, the landing of a man on the moon. President Kennedy, in his speech challenging America to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade did not say “I am calling on America’s corporations to put a man on the moon and return him safely.” No corporation would be able to justify the financial risk involved. It is the role of government to intelligently assume the risk of these grand endeavors. The great inventions of the 20th century like the transistor, the polio vaccine, and the internet were spawned by government research and grants. Where will the great inventions (and economic growth catalysis) of the 21st century come from?

    Reply
  4. DSWright

    We need to make these investments the benefits are not always clear at first but vital later.

    X-Rays for physics -> medicine

    Air Defense -> Computers

    ARPANET -> internet

    Satellite Intel – GPS

    All public money folks.  

    Reply

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