FYI: Science Policy News

Obama: 3% of GDP for R&D

APR 27, 2009

President Barack Obama addressed an overflow audience at the 146th Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences on April 27. In his expansive speech, the President called for greater investments in research and development, and science education.

The following are select quotes from the President’s speech:

“Federal funding in the physical sciences as a portion of our gross domestic product has fallen by nearly half over the past quarter century. Time and again we’ve allowed the research and experimentation tax credit, which helps business grow and innovate, to lapse.

“Our schools continue to trail. Our students are outperformed in math and science by their peers in Singapore, Japan, England, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Korea, among others. Another assessment shows American fifteen year olds ranked 25th in math and 21st in science when compared to nations around the world.

“And we have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas.”

“A half century ago, this nation made a commitment to lead the world in scientific and technological innovation; to invest in education, in research, in engineering… Since then our investments have steadily declined as a share of our national income-our GDP [gross domestic product].”

“I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than three percent of our GDP to research and development. We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the Space Race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research… promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science. This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history.”

“Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and with the support of Congress, my administration is already providing the largest single boost to investment in basic research in American history.”

“We double the budget of key agencies, including the National Science Foundation… and the National Institute of Standards and Technology… And my budget doubles funding for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science…”

“… My budget makes the research and experimentation tax credit permanent.”

“The fact is, there will be no single Sputnik moment for this generation’s challenge to break our dependence on fossil fuels.”

“That is why I have set a goal for our nation that we will reduce our carbon pollution by more than 80 percent by 2050.”

“And today, I am also announcing that for the first time, we are funding an initiative- recommended by this organization- called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E.”

“And because of recent progress- not just in biology, genetics and medicine, but also in physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering- we have the potential to make enormous progress against diseases in the coming decades. That is why my Administration is committed to increasing funding for the National Institutes of Heath, including $6 billion to support cancer research, part of a sustained, multi-year plan to double cancer research in our country.”

“We also need to engage the scientific community directly in the work of public policy. That is why, today, I am announcing the appointment of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, known as PCAST…”

“It will be co-chaired by John Holdren, my top science advisor; Eric Lander, one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project; and Harold Varmus, former head of the National Institutes of Health and a Nobel laureate.”

“… Today I am announcing a renewed commitment to education in mathematics and science.”

“We know that the quality of math and science teachers is the most influential single factor in determining whether or a student will succeed or fail in these subjects. Yet, in high school, more than twenty percent of students in math and more than sixty percent of students in chemistry and physics are taught by teachers without expertise in these fields. And this problem is only going to get worse; there is a projected shortfall of more than 280,000 math and science teachers across the country by 2015.

“That is why I am announcing today that states making strong commitments and progress in math and science education will be eligible to compete later this fall for additional funds under the Secretary of Education’s $5 billion Race to the Top program.

“I am challenging states to dramatically improve achievement in math and science by raising standards, modernizing science labs, upgrading curriculum, and forging partnerships to improve the use of science and technology in our classrooms. And I am challenging states to enhance teacher preparation and training, and to attract new and qualified math and science teachers to better engage students and reinvigorate these subjects in our schools.”

“There are, right now, chemists who could teacher chemistry; physicists who could teach physics… But we need to create a way to bring the expertise and the enthusiasm of folks- folks like you- into the classroom.”

“My budget also triples the number of National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships.”

“So I want to persuade you to spend time in the classroom… Encourage your university to participate in programs to allow students to get a degree in scientific fields and a teaching certificate at the same time.”

“I’m going to participate in a public awareness and outreach campaign to encourage students to consider careers in science, mathematics, and engineering…”

“And the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation will be launching a joint initiative to inspire tens of thousands of American students to pursue careers in science, engineering and entrepreneurship related to clean energy.”

“It will create research opportunities for undergraduates and educational opportunities for women and minorities who too often have been underrepresented in scientific and technological fields…”

The President’s speech may be listened to here .

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