Since this month's general election, there has been considerable speculation
about the policy and budget directions that will guide the new Congress
which convenes in January. This is the first in a series of FYIs that
will look ahead at what might be expected.
Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was quoted in the Washington Post
earlier this month as saying that Democrats will support the Bush Administration's
proposal to increase funding for basic research. Pelosi's declaration
reiterates a speech she gave a year ago that was reviewed in FYI #170
dated December 2, 2005. Selections from this FYI follow, in which Pelosi
said that her party's Innovation Agenda "will be our priority."
House Democrats Release "The Innovation Agenda"
(December 2, 2005)
The political profile of efforts to strengthen U.S. research and development
was raised last month with the release of a multi-pronged strategy by
the highest ranking Democrat in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
(D-CA). "The Innovation Agenda: A Commitment to Competitiveness
to Keep America #1," includes many of the recommendations made
by previous advisory panels. What was noteworthy about the November
15  event at the National Press Club was the presence of Pelosi
and her statement that "this will be our priority."
Concerns about the strength of American research and development are
long-standing. Many of the problems and solutions in the Innovation
Agenda were raised in reports ranging from one released by Rep. Vern
Ehlers (R-MI) in 1998 (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/1998/fyi98.138.htm)
to the recent National Academies report, "Rising Above the Gathering
Storm" (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/155.html.)
In describing the Agenda, Pelosi stated, "Today, the world
has changed dramatically in ways that pose unprecedented challenges
to our economic well-being. The underdeveloped countries of yesterday
can become the formidable competitors of tomorrow . . .or even today.
Those countries are following what has been the United States' blueprint
for decades, and which resulted in our pre-eminence. As others have
copied our blueprint, we have departed from it. They are investing heavily
in improving their educational systems, and creating world-class universities,
particularly in science and technology." As evidence, Pelosi
cited the number of U.S. students now graduating with degrees in engineering
compared to much higher numbers in India and China, stagnating or falling
decline in federal support for basic research since 1987, and the low
U.S. ranking in broadband penetration.
The Agenda was developed with advice from leaders and CEOs in academia,
venture capital, and entrepreneurs in the high tech, biotech, and telecommunication
sectors in forums in California, Washington state, Illinois, Massachusetts,
New Jersey, and North Carolina. It has five major components: increasing
the STEM workforce, investing in sustained R&D, guaranteeing access
to affordable broadband technology, energy independence, and various
initiatives to strengthen small businesses. In regard to R&D spending,
the Agenda states that funding would be doubled for the "National
Science Foundation, basic research in the physical sciences across all
agencies, and collaborative research partnerships." Pelosi could
not provide a cost estimate for the Agenda or state how it would be
paid for, saying "we can't afford not to do this." She spoke
several times of her willingness to work with House Republicans. . .
The eight-page Agenda can be reviewed at http://www.housedemocrats.gov/news/librarydetail.cfm?library_content_id=557