Web Date: April 27, 2009
Obama Pledges More Support For Science
In a speech this morning before a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C., President Barack Obama laid out his administration's goals for enhancing science, technology, and innovation in the U.S.
Obama praised the scientific and engineering communities for their work in enabling the U.S. to become the world leader in so many areas over the past 50 years and pledged to do what he could to move science forward for the next 50 years.
Among his Administration's goals is to increase federal funding of research and development to more than 3% of gross domestic product. "This has begun with the historic commitment to scientific research through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which provided the largest single boost to science and technology funding in history," Obama said.
Calculations based on data from the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis puts 3% of the 2008 U.S. gross domestic product at $415 billion. Federal R&D funding for fiscal 2009 in the omnibus appropriation bill signed March 11 was $151 billion.
Other initiatives Obama cited during his speech include making the research and technology tax credit permanent and moving to modernize the U.S. health care system. But Obama received the loudest applause during his speech when he told NAS members of a "new effort to ensure that federal policies are based on the best and most unbiased scientific information. I want to be sure that facts are driving scientific decisions – and not the other way around."
Obama also received vigorous applause for pledging a renewed commitment to improving mathematics and science education. Among the variety of programs Obama said will be funded are new grant programs for states to get better qualified math and science teachers in high schools, an initiative to increase research fellowships at colleges and universities, and a goal to increase the college graduation rate of U.S. students to the highest in the world.
Obama also challenged the scientists and engineers at the meeting to go back to the classroom and inspire students by telling them what their own work means and what it means to others. He said he will participate in a public service outreach program to encourage students to choose careers in science and technology.
Finally, Obama announced the final appointments to his President's Council of Advisors for Science &Technology (PCAST). Among the 20 members of the committee are several prominent chemists including Chad Mirkin, professor of materials science and engineering, chemistry, and medicine at Northwestern University; Mario Molina, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego; David E. Shaw, chief scientist at D.E. Shaw Research; and Ahmed Zewail, professor of chemistry and physics at California Institute of Technology.
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