The State of Science

On Tuesday 25th January, President of the United States Barack Obama will give his second State of the Union Address, fulfilling his constitutional duty:

‘He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.’

The State of the Union address is a high point of the American political calendar, where the President outlines his legislative agenda for the coming year. Every political group, organisation, corporation and citizen of America is awaiting the announcement, hoping for an indication that their best interests will be addressed this year. The scientific community is no different. In fact, prominent figures of an institution called Research!America have this week urged President Obama to realise the importance of investment in science and technology.

Obama at State of the Union

President Obama at the 2010 State of the Union. Will he continue his support for science this year?

Research!America is the USA’s largest non-profit public education alliance working to make scientific research and development a higher national priority. Following the prominence of science in last year’s State of the Union address, where Obama urged the encouragement of American research and innovation, Research!America made a statement earlier this week attempting to ensure America’s continued investment in the sciences and science education.

In this statement Research!America’s chair, former Congressman John E. Porter, and their CEO Mary Woolley urged the President to recognise that America leads the world in science and technology, innovation and research and that further investment in these areas would be the silver bullet. Research!America believe the key to economic growth is investment in scientific and technological research and development; “it is here where American jobs – quality jobs – are created with such investments and here where much of our economic growth resides and will reside”.

During the past two years, President Obama has continuously supported investment in the sciences. Famously lifting restrictions on stem cell research and supporting a bill awarding $10.3 billion in funding for the National Institute of Health. However, Porter and Woolley’s fears that science may fall by the wayside are not unfounded as they are still waiting for President Obama to fulfil a pledge he made in 2009; that he would devote 3% or more of America’s GDP to research and development, a goal supported by 87% of American Citizens.

It is pleasantly surprising to see that such a high proportion of the American public are behind the increase in investment in scientific research and development. This investment will allow a real improvement in American healthcare and economy and according to Woolley “reclaim American values of innovation and investment in the future’.

Will Obama live up to the expectations of Research!America and the rest of the scientific community? Only time will tell, America has 4 days to wait, though with such a large proportion of America behind the investment, science looks set to lead the way in rebuilding America’s economy.

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