A New Report Highlights the Potential for a U.S. Innovation Deficit

Anna Hatch

Investing in basic science helps fuel the U.S. economy and society in general.  However, as science investments stagnate, there’s a growing concern that other countries will outpace the U.S. in research and development.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science hosted a panel discussion February 22 highlighting the benefits of basic research in a new report, “The Future Postponed 2.0: Why Declining Investment in Basic Research Threatens a U.S. Innovation Deficit.” The report is a collection of scientific advances written by researchers that highlight the role basic science plays in innovation.

“If we don’t make the investments [in research], we short ourselves and even more we shortchange future generations,” said Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS and Research!America board member.

One of the report’s authors Andrea Ghez, distinguished professor of physics and astronomy and head of UCLA’s Galactic Center Group, explained how the research conducted in her astrophysics laboratory can be translated into other scientific disciplines including biotechnology, an area where many of her students now work.  

Panelist Michele Pagano, chair of the department of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology at the New York University School of Medicine and an investigator with Howard Hughes Medical Institute, said he uses basic science to understand how sleep and health are connected. “We know that problems with sleep will affect your health, but we do not know how or why.” Pagano investigates molecular clocks regulating sleep cycles to help uncover potential therapeutics for different sleep disorders.

“This fundamental knowledge [of basic science] is the grounding on which advances in applied research and development can be made,” said Maria Zuber, chair of the National Science Board and E.A. Griswold professor of geophysics and vice president for research at MIT.

Limited federal funding can also have detrimental effects on retaining talented young scientists. “Without funding, young people are going to leave the field and go into different areas,” said Zuber.

“The future welfare of the nation relies on Congress and the new Administration providing robust and sustained support for U.S. R&D,” said Marc Kastner, chair of the Future Postponed 2.0 report and president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance.

Anna Hatch is a Research!America Communications Intern.

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America’s economic destiny lies in innovation, technology, science and research.
The Honorable John E. Porter