Obama vows return to US science prominence (Update)

April 27, 2009

President Barack Obama pledged Monday to return the United States to a "high water mark" of scientific achievement, announcing a goal to commit three percent of GDP to research and development.

Obama laid out a deck of initiatives in a speech at the National Academy of Sciences, where he vowed to implement what he described as the largest-ever US investment in scientific research and a dramatic reversal of the ideology-driven policies of his predecessor George W. Bush.

The clarion call for the country to regain its position as the world leader in scientific research and innovation came as the Obama administration faced its first major global health crisis with a deadly swine flu outbreak in Mexico and the United States that threatens to burst into a pandemic.

"At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science, that support for research is somehow a luxury at moments defined by necessities," Obama told hundreds of scientists, researchers and educators.

"I fundamentally disagree. Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment and our quality of life than it has ever been."

Citing a plunge in federal funding of physical sciences over the past 25 years, Obama warned that US achievement, particularly science and math study, dramatically lagged in the late 20th century -- and threatened to fall even further behind other rapidly advancing nations.

"I believe it is not in our American character to follow, but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again," he said.

Obama also declared a need to end the politicization of scientific research, a charge he has leveled at the Bush administration.

"We are restoring science to its rightful place," he said. "Under my administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over."

Obama pointed to the US goal set in the 1950s to reach space and its commitment to leading scientific innovation after the Soviet Union shocked the world by launching its Sputnik 1 satellite into space in 1957.

"That was the high water mark of America's investment in research and development. Since then our investments have steadily declined as a share of our national income," he said.

But Obama set a goal of devoting more than three percent of US gross domestic product (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, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science," he said.

As part of his massive 787-billion-dollar stimulus bill, Obama has committed 21.5 billion dollars for research and development, and his 2010 budget includes another 75 billion to make research and experimentation tax credits permanent.

In his first months in office, Obama began peeling back some key Bush science policies, including the decision to limit federal funding for embryonic stem cell research despite pleas by many scientists who believe it offers promise in fighting degenerative diseases.

Obama has also expressed deep concern over Bush's position on global warming, including his failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, and the president pulled no punches Monday.

"We have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas," Obama said.

"We know that our country is better than this."

Among Obama's commitments are doubling the budget of the National Science Foundation, which funds academic research, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

He also outlined a five-billion-dollar "Race To The Top" fund to encourage states to improve the quality and quantity of math and science teachers.

Obama announced the launch of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E, a 400-million-dollar initiative dedicated to "high-risk, high-reward research."

Obama touched on his recovery plan that includes investing 150 billion dollars over the next decade on renewable energy sources.

He also put forward his President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a group of 20 scientists and engineers Obama said would advise him on "national strategies to nurture and sustain a culture of scientific innovation."

(c) 2009 AFP

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5 / 5 (4) Apr 27, 2009
I can only pray that this comes to pass and is but a spark to ignite much greater things.
5 / 5 (4) Apr 27, 2009
First things first, he needs to get states to stop cutting back on school funding. In my area, our students and schools are suffering due to budgets paying for new schools, but not better education. And now they are cutting back on education budgets. My governor needs to realize our state doesn't have a budget deficit, but a spending problem. Spend the money on education!
3.8 / 5 (6) Apr 27, 2009
So what you are saying is that, even though you make 2 to 3 times or more what I make, you want ME to help pay for your kids schooling so that you can have 4 of them plus a bunch of pets. Thanks a lot.

That's what I get for being childless in a society that keeps inching towards socialism.
2.7 / 5 (3) Apr 27, 2009
No offense taken EXCEPT for the very common attitude that the Federal Government should somehow fix and pay for everything.

It costs anywhere from 7-11K per child, per year to send them to public school, so no, you are not paying for your own kids education, not even by half. A lot less than half since there are many other services to be paid for.

That means someone else is paying for the lion's share of your kids schooling, which means that you have some nice, rich, compliant slaves out there to help you pay for what you want.

Asking the FG to pay for things is just asking for money out of other people's pockets, but no one ever says that. Why not just say it: "I want other people to pay for the things that I want in life but cannot afford."

I will agree with you about the crazy wars that Democrats and Republicans love to get us into, but force is force, and a government uses force to back up it's claim on our tax dollars, so why don't you have a little 'decency' and admit that you are living off of other people's efforts. Yes, that goes for me, too, but I am not calling for more expenditures.
2 / 5 (2) Apr 27, 2009
Quite frankly, I don't want much public money spent at all, on anything. Keep the fed small and all that. Keep things at state and local levels. I'd love to see less spending on schools. Some stools and a few good teachers. Let 'em learn to think and talk before we give them computers. Private or home schooling is even better, but that would be impossible for most people.

I'd love for you to keep most of your money and pay for the things you really want in life, instead of what some total strangers in D.C. decide to spend it on. But, alas, we are not intelligent enough to determine the best use of the fruits of our own labor. So, spend away Washington! Spend us into oblivion! yeah.
4 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2009
Very good points all around. Personally I agree with Brandon. However...

The problem seemingly is, the majority. Our system supposedly works on the majority rules premise, therfore the majority must not put a whole lot of stock in public education or investing in the minds of our children.

After all, why should they? Is it in their best interest to help make future generations too smart to fall for the same old tricks? Nope. It IS in their best interest to keep everyone woefully ingnorant and pull the wool a little further over the eyes of the masses that support the whole damn thing.

The system is broken and has been for a LONG time. As long as people keep accepting it, it won't change. Why should it?
not rated yet Apr 28, 2009
I don't think the system is bad. If we are talking about the United States here, then I would say the Constitution set up a pretty good system of government. It is the people that are the problem. If the people don't care, or don't police the government, or just vote for thier side no matter what, then this is what we get.

We keep electing people who don't care what the Constitution says, or how it limits their power.

So, yes, perhaps it will be time, soon, to follow TJ's advice and start over with a clean slate.

But then we'd have to agree on basic premises, and, somehow, I don't think that is going to happen.

I do take some heart in the positive response that Ron Paul got from young people. I hope it means that many of them want limited government and are tired of the staus quo and want to REALLY change things.

Whatever happens, it could happen very fast. The newest generation is gonna be "always on" and tuned into each other more than any generation before. We might see something completely unique develope and take over the world. It could be scary, but I'm up for something new.
not rated yet May 03, 2009
I think giving 3% is much less than is necessary. We should be devoting more like 25% to scientific research.

It isn't cost effective. You only have so much that can be effectively spent at any time and then you run out of, qualified, people to do the research. Look at Aids research, Congress was pumping tons of money in to it but there weren't enough labs and researchers to absorb the money.
Additionally, more use is made of research money in the private sector so the real ideal is to give tax credits for more than is spent to the corporations and universities.
not rated yet May 04, 2009
the dot coms had too much money chasing too few ideas.

the key isnt in research, the key is in translating the facts fo reasearch into producits and such. it will waste tons of money and such as the ideas increase, but the means of doing something remains as moribund as it is now thanks to the legal changes.

its basically waterboarding science, and chocking the system with too much of a good thing...

like a kid that eats too much candy at once its going to end up giving us all a belly ache... (as the ideas that have no outlet here, end up someplace else)

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