Guest post: The MIT Science Policy Initiative visits Capitol Hill to support the future of research & development in the US

MIT-Washington DC-2013

CVD 2013 student delegation at the Capitol;  Photo Credit: Charles Haynes

Amidst difficult budget negotiations on Capitol Hill, on March 12 and 13, MIT students and postdocs traveled to Washington to sound a warning about the future of science and engineering research in this country if indiscriminate cuts to federal programs continue.

In addition to mostly flat funding in recent budgets, language in the Budget Control Act of 2012 calling for across-the-board cuts’€”known as ’€œsequestration’€’€”took effect on March 1. These cuts, in addition to the ongoing erosion of federal funding for scientific research, decrease America’€™s ability to maintain economic growth and remain globally competitive, the 17-person delegation from MIT urged in meetings with Members of Congress and their staff. This funding crisis is creating fiscal shockwaves that will echo through the innovation system for years to come.

The MIT student and postdocs delegation, organized by MIT’€™s Science Policy Initiative (SPI), joined more than 200 scientists and engineers to take part in the 18th annual ’€œScience-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day’€ (CVD), an event sponsored by 33 academic societies, universities and trade associations, including MIT, who represent more than 1 million researchers and professionals. This year’€™s delegation was the seventh consecutive group from MIT to participate in this effort and, with 17 students and post-docs, the largest delegation of young researchers to participate in CVD this year.

The MIT delegation participated in meetings with 34 House and Senate offices from eleven states. A key message of the delegation revolved around the positive economic impact from federal supported R&D. From MIT efforts alone, 25,800 currently active companies founded by MIT alumni employ about 3.3 million people and generate annual revenues of $2 trillion globally, producing together the equivalent of the 11th-largest economy in the world.

As Jesse Jenkins (MIT Technology & Policy Program), co-organizer of the delegation, noted: ’€œEvery 1% increase in national R&D increases GDP growth rate by 0.23%, or for every dollar taken out of federal R&D investments today, two dollars will be added to the deficit over the next decade.’€ (report)

’€œIt takes a considerable amount of time to train a scientist ’€“ from their graduate career on to becoming an independent academic researcher,’€ said Max Kaplan (MIT Biology). ’€œBut turning the funding tap on and off does not simply set research back a few years. If cuts to basic research funding continue to occur, entire generations of scientists may be left to find alternative careers. Our county’€™s innovation ecosystem is a winning investment, but it requires significant and consistent federal funding to pay out.’€

by Yuly Fuentes, PhD, Postdoctoral Associate, MIT Sloan School of Management and Magda Papadaki, PhD, Postdoctoral Associate, MIT Center for Biomedical Innovation

 Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a Research!America member and contributed this guest blog post. Join these young scientists from MIT and speak up for the future of research!

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Without continued support for health research, many of the most promising young scientists, their ideas and a myriad of potentially life-changing scientific breakthroughs will vanish into oblivion.
Paul Marinec, PhD; University of California San Francisco