It’s Time to Get Serious about Science
by Jim Cooper and Alan I. Leshner (The Washington Post) Op Ed: Some policymakers, including certain senators and members of Congress, cannot resist ridiculing any research project with an unusual title. Their press releases are perhaps already waiting in the drawer, with blanks for the name of the latest scientist being attacked.
…The United States may now risk falling behind in scientific discoveries as other countries increase their science funding. We need to get serious about science. In fact, maybe it’s time for researchers to fight back, to return a comeback for every punch line.
Toward that end, we are announcing this week the winners of the first Golden Goose Awards, which recognize the often-surprising benefits of science to society. Charles H. Townes, for example, is hailed as a primary architect of laser technology. Early in his career, though, he was reportedly warned not to waste resources on an obscure technique for amplifying radiation waves into an intense, continuous stream. In 1964, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Nikolay Basov and Alexander Prokhorov.
…Federal support for basic science is at risk: We are already investing a smaller share of our economy in science as compared with seven other countries, including Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Since 1999, the United States has increased R&D funding, as a percentage of the economy, by 10 percent. Over the same period, the share of R&D in the economies of Finland, Germany and Israel have grown about twice as fast. In Taiwan, it has grown five times as fast; in South Korea, six times as fast; in China; 10 times. In the United States, meanwhile, additional budget cuts have been proposed to R&D spending for non-defense areas. If budget-control negotiations fail, drastic across-the-board cuts will take effect in January that could decimate entire scientific fields.