3% of US GDP for Science Research & Development, Obama Tells National Academy of Sciences

barack obama photo

photo: National Academy of Sciences

In amongst all the swine flu news of the past few days, remarks made by President Obama at the National Academy of Sciences regarding an historic investment in science research may have passed you by. Obama touted that in his budget there is the largest investment in science in the history of the nation: More than 3% of US GDP being allocated to research and development. Here's the relevant text:

A half century ago, this nation made a commitment to lead the world in scientific and technological innovation; to invest in education, in research, in engineering; to set a goal of reaching space and engaging every citizen in that historic mission. That was the high water mark of America’s investment in research and development. Since then our investments have steadily declined as a share of our national income – our GDP. As a result, other countries are now beginning to pull ahead in the pursuit of this generation’s great discoveries.

I believe it is not in our American character to follow – but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than three percent of our GDP to research and development. We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the Space Race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science. This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history.

Just think what this will allow us to accomplish: solar cells as cheap as paint, and green buildings that produce all of the energy they consume; learning software as effective as a personal tutor; prosthetics so advanced that you could play the piano again; an expansion of the frontiers of human knowledge about ourselves and world the around us. We can do this.

The pursuit of discovery half a century ago fueled our prosperity and our success as a nation in the half century that followed. The commitment I am making today will fuel our success for another fifty years. That is how we will ensure that our children and their children will look back on this generation’s work as that which defined the progress and delivered the prosperity of the 21st century.

While as a percentage of GDP the US still outspends every other nation on the planet by a hideously large margin (and you wonder why science and education spending has dwindled...), this commitment by Obama to re-investment in science is seriously, seriously good news.

Read more: Full remarks from President Obama at National Academy of Sciences
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