Tuesday, 07 January 2014 13:16

Rocket Scientist Deplores Decline in Biomedical Research Funding in TEDx Talk

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Contending that no enemy could have devised a system so effective at destroying U.S. science and technology competitiveness as the policies pursued by Congress and state legislatures in "disinvesting" in education and innovation, a former president of Lockheed Martin and longtime presidential science advisor Norman Augustine warned that the U.S. economic engine was in decline in a recent TEDx talk (below). A chief "exhibit" of statistical evidence in Augustine's scathing indictment was the drop in government support for basic biomedical research of 22% in the last decade. The U.S. has now dropped to 6th place in the world in R&D investment per unit of the gross national product, he said.

"You might ask what business does an aerospace engineer like me have in making economic arguments?" Augustine wondered. "Well, I would point out that I am a rocket scientist."

Augustine, who studied engineering at Princeton on a scholarship, led Lockheed Martin, chaired the American Red Cross, and served for 16 years on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, said of his generation, "We lived the American dream, but the American dream may not survive."

Augustine warned, "For every percent increase in jobs in America it requires a 1.7 percent increase in GDP," adding that studies have shown that 50 and 85% of the GDP growth in America is attributable to advances in science and technology. Legislatures and Congress have created a double whammy for science and technology innovators by defunding public universities for talented but poor Americans and raising immigration barriers against talented and educated foreigners. Of Americans just graduating from high school, Augustine said, "This generation will be the first in American history who will be less well educated than their parents."

Christina Szalinski

Christina is a science writer for the American Society for Cell Biology. She earned her Ph.D. in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

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