President Barack Obama addressed the 146th Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences on April 27 in Washington, DC, and said that "we can't start soon enough" to increase the nation's investment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and research.
The president announced several initiatives aimed at improving the United States' science and engineering capabilities, including increasing R&D expenditures to 3 percent of gross domestic product, and making permanent a research and experimentation tax credit whose funding has been erratic in recent years.
Obama said a top priority of his administration will be to increase the emphasis on how the United States produces and uses energy, investing $150 billion over 10 years in that area. He also announced the formation of an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E), to fund high-risk, high-reward research.
He disagreed with those who say investments in science should wait for a better economy. "Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life that it has ever been before," Obama said.
Among the educational initiatives the president discussed were a program to provide additional funds to states making strong commitments in science and math, and tripling the number of National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships. He challenged states to enhance teacher preparation and attract more qualified math and science teachers, and he challenged scientists to find ways to get into the classroom. He stressed the importance of "talking and showing young people what it is that your work can mean, and what it means to you."
John Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, introduced President Obama to the overflow crowd, saying that the administration's plans "underline the importance he places on science, engineering, and innovation."
Video of Obama speech at National Academy of Sciences meeting.
Press release from National Academy of Sciences.