Congressional Members Respond to Joint Society Statement
Numerous Congressional representatives have endorsed the Joint Society Statement calling for an across-the-board increase of 7% in research funding, released in early March by leading scientific, mathematical and engineering societies, including the APS (see APS News, April 1997). Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Representative George Brown (D-CA) all expressed their support of the statement, and Gramm and Brown both have proposed bills calling for increased investment in basic research.
The joint statement, signed by the presidents of more than 20 major organizations representing more than one million engineers, mathematicians and scientists, urged Congress and the President to renew America's historical commitment to scientific research and education. It was drafted in response to the decline in research funding for four straight years. President Clinton's FY 98 budget request for science again falls behind inflation and behind the overall increase of the budget.
Gramm urged scientists to contact their own senators on behalf of his bill, entitled the National Research Investment Act (S.124), which aims at doubling the federal investment in basic research in 10 years - a commitment he deems critically important to the nation's future. "If we do not restore the high priority once afforded science and technology in the federal budget and increase federal investment in research, it will be impossible to maintain the United States' position as the technological leader of the world," he said, pointing out that Japan and Germany have spent a larger share of their GDP on research and development than the U.S.
Brown also praised scientists for speaking out and announced his intention to introduce legislation calling for an increase of 5% per year in non-defense R&D, lest continued under-investment in science lead to a less prosperous future. "Economists estimate that as much as half of our Nation's economic growth in the last hundred years is due to technological innovations," he said. "Just as we have a generational obligation to balance the budget and not make the next generation pay for our consumption, we also have an obligation to continue to invest in those programs that will leave the next generation in a position to enjoy a robust, growing economy."
Lieberman also said that the nation's current prosperity, intellectual leadership in science and medicine, and the growth of entire new industries are directly linked to federal investments made 30 years ago. He praised Gramm's bill, but said it should encompass applied research, and called for an end to partisan conflicts, in order to best identify areas in need of federal support. "I believe it is a mistake to separate research into two warring camps," he said. "Rather, the research enterprise represents a broad spectrum of human activity with basic and applied science at either end, but not in opposition. Every component along the spectrum produces returns: economic, social and intellectual gains for the society as a whole."