China’s rapid rate of growth in research and development (R&D) investment (at purchasing power parity) - compared with America’s - is a significant development that warrants our attention. Also, China is increasing R&D investment by double-digit percentages each year while the U.S. has fallen to tenth place among OECD nations in investment in R&D – public and private – as a fraction of GDP, which is a strong indicator of the intensity of a nation’s investment in its future.
The United States’ lagging rate of R&D investment is exacerbated by current strains on the research system and public and private higher education, COVID-19, restrictions on foreign researchers, and proposed cuts to federal investment in basic and applied research.
To fall behind even a few years in science and technology R&D can have grave consequences for our country’s economy, job creation, standard of living, and national security.
The Perils of Complacency: America at a Tipping Point in Science & Engineering is a new report from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the Baker Institute at Rice University. The work was led by Academy members Norman Augustine, former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin and a former Under Secretary of the Army, and Neal Lane, senior fellow in science and technology policy at the Baker Institute and former director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and National Science Foundation; it is rooted in the recognition that scientific and technological advances are fundamental to the prosperity, health, and security of America.
This new report focuses on progress and setbacks since the Academy’s last report on the importance of investing in research, Restoring the Foundation: The Vital Role of Research in Preserving the American Dream, which was issued in 2014.
While national understanding of the importance of R&D has improved and there have been increases in federal research funding in some areas, challenges remain and America’s ability to be globally competitive is not assured. The new publication, The Perils of Complacency: America at a Tipping Point in Science & Engineering recommends policies to help ensure that the United States maintains the strong position of global leadership in discovery and innovation that it has built through investment and effort since the end of World War II.