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Lasers & Sources

"Gathering Storm" report update says U.S. scientific support continues to decline

Nature.com and other sources
28 September 2010

The outlook for America's ability to compete for quality jobs in the global economy has continued to deteriorate in the last five years, and the nation needs a sustained investment in education and basic research to keep from slipping further, says a new report requested by the presidents of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, and authored by members of the committee that wrote the influential 2005 report Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future.

What progress has been made in addressing America's competitiveness challenges came largely as the result of the America COMPETES Act and stimulus package spending advancing its provisions, but both are due to expire soon, warned authors of the new report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5.

"There is support for research but it is unstable, and these investments only make sense if they are sustained for the long haul," says report coauthor Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering in Washington DC.

The new report is an update of the National Academy of Sciences' 2005 report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm", which called for a ten percent annual increase in government funding of basic scientific research for seven years. That report elicited rare bipartisan support in Congress for a bill called America COMPETES, which put several key science agencies on a path toward doubling their funding over ten years.

"Addressing America's competitiveness challenge is an undertaking that will require many years, if not decades," said Norman R. Augustine, one of the new report's authors and chair of the original Gathering Storm committee.

The report's authors concluded that the nation's competitive outlook has worsened since 2005, when Gathering Storm issued its call to strengthen K-12 education and double the federal basic-research budget. While progress has been made in certain areas, the latitude to fix the problems being confronted has been severely diminished by the economic recession and the growth of the national debt over this period from $8 trillion to $13 trillion, the report says.

Press release from National Academies Press
Full story from Nature.com
Download the report or individual chapters
SPIE Newsroom interview with Charles Vest: Science and engineering key to meeting challenges (2009)