For decades, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have championed federal funding for research and development — funding that provides incredible value for our nation’s health, economy, and security. Yet, the current White House is proposing a budget that would ignore R&D’s value, starve science, and hinder growth.
U.S. investments in scientific and engineering R&D have created millions of jobs in both the public and private sectors, improved state economies, and generated commercial growth. According to a Congressional Research Service report, scientists and engineers only account for about five percent of the nation’s workforce, but they still help create jobs across the rest of the workforce. Scientists’ discoveries and products extend far beyond the research laboratory, affecting people across the business sector — from designers to builders to consumers.
For example, by proposing to cut the National Institutes of Health’s budget by $7.4 billion, or 21.5 percent, in 2018, not only would research grants and labs be affected, but hospitals and pharmaceutical companies’ ability to discover medicines and techniques that improve public health, fight disease, and save lives will be hindered. At a time when we are facing global health crises like Ebola and Zika, countries around the world are looking to the United States to continue to be the preeminent, most effective, and sought-after partner for innovation.
We can be thankful that Congress understands the need to invest in biomedical research. Despite a proposal from the White House to cut the NIH budget by $1.23 billion for the remainder of 2017, Congress recently decided to invest an additional $2 billion in NIH programs.
When considering the 2018 budget proposal, Congress must continue to uphold and protect its bipartisan support for investment in basic and applied scientific research across all disciplines so that the U.S. can maintain its leadership.
Other countries recognize the enormous value of R&D and the foundation it lays for enhancing 21st century economic growth and global competitiveness. For example, from 2000-2013, China’s investments in R&D grew 17 percent, South Korea’s 8.3 percent, and Russia’s 8.2 percent, while the U.S. stagnated. There is a clear trend among global leaders that investing in R&D is a critical factor in determining a nation’s ability to grow its economy and help solve challenging problems.
For generations, U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have supported continued investment in basic and applied research because they witnessed and celebrated the profound and positive impacts that these investments have on our health, economy, and global leadership. Across every business industry and sector, investment in R&D provides clear opportunities for Americans and advances economic prosperity.
Because of federal funding for weather and environmental research, for example, business owners and farmers can make informed decisions that improve food security and benefit our agriculture sector. Funding for material and engineering sciences has improved energy sources, space exploration, and bridge and infrastructure, and enabled countless technologies and products now essential to modern lives. Social and behavioral science research has been critical to helping us respond effectively to disasters, enhance intelligence, and improve international relations.
Even our defense industry — one of the few sectors to see increased investment under the White House’s budget proposal — benefits tremendously from investments in science. Because of defense R&D, contractors can better supply our armed forces with technology and equipment that helps them deter emerging threats and protect our homeland. As an example, computer science R&D enables massive companies to solidify their cybersecurity infrastructures so that their business can flourish in an internet economy.
Our country can explore and better understand the most efficient and effective ways to fight disease, expand agriculture, and foster economic prosperity, but we must continue to invest in science R&D to do so. We urge Congress not to sacrifice the nation’s future innovation, and to not cut R&D investments as the president’s budget proposes. When government, science, and business sectors work together, millions of Americans and people around the world live healthier and more prosperous lives.
Rush Holt (D-N.J.) is the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), executive publisher of the Science family of journals, and a former Congressman from New Jersey.
Elias Zerhouni is president of global research and development at the Sanofi pharmaceutical company and former director of the National Institutes of Health.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.