Restoring the Foundation: The Vital Role of Research in Preserving the American Dream

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American Academy of Arts and Sciences

The American research enterprise is at a critical inflection point. The decisions that policymakers and leaders in science, engineering, and technology make over the next few years will determine the trajectory of American innovation for many years to come.

Recent data show that the United States has slipped to tenth place among OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations in overall research and development (R&D) investment as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product), and continues to fall short of the goal of at least 3 percent adopted by several U.S. presidents. As we lose our global competitive edge, many emerging nations are increasing their research investments in order to stimulate economic growth. Indeed, China is projected to outspend the United States in R&D within the next ten years, both in absolute terms and as a fraction of economic output. If our nation does not act quickly to shore up its scientific enterprise, it will squander the advantage it has long held as an engine of innovation that generates new discoveries and stimulates job growth.