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Optical Society of America CEO Testifies on Importance of NSF and NIST to US Economic Prosperity

Richard M. Jones
Number 60 - May 2, 2012  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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When testifying before House appropriators, Elizabeth Rogan, CEO of the Optical Society of America, urged “continued, sustained investments in R&D programs at NSF and NIST” that will, she said, “help revitalize U.S. manufacturing, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and spur innovations that will lead to a better quality of life for millions of people in the U.S. and around the globe.”

Rogan appeared before the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee as appropriators were developing their FY 2013 funding bill.  This subcommittee provides funding for the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 

The Optical Society of America is one of AIP’s Member Societies.  The full text of Rogan’s oral remarks appears below.  Her written testimony is here.

“Good morning, Chairman [Frank] Wolf [(R-VA)] and Ranking Member [Chaka] Fattah [(D-PA)].  My name is Elizabeth Rogan, CEO of the Optical Society of America (OSA).  I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budgets for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), both of which are vital to our nation’s scientists and engineers.   I would like to thank you and the subcommittee members for your stewardship in providing sustained investments in these two critical agencies.

“OSA unites more than 130,000 professionals from 175 countries and brings together the global optics community through our programs and initiatives.   Since 1916 OSA has advanced the common interests of the scientists, engineers and business leaders in the field of optics and photonics. Optics is a highly specialized branch of physics known as the ‘science of light,’ which makes possible everything from medical imaging and solar energy to high-speed computers, LEDs, and laser cutting for manufacturing.

“Mr. Chairman, OSA strongly supports the President’s FY2013 budget requests of $7.3 billion for NSF and $857 million NIST for three fundamental reasons.

“First, these federal investments in research and development (R&D) are vital to ensuring our country’s long-term economic prosperity and competitiveness. Work being done in labs and classrooms today leads to the businesses, innovations and jobs of tomorrow. America’s leadership in science and technology is largely due to the investment in long-term, basic and applied research in the decades following World War II. In recent decades however, federal funding as a percent of GDP has declined in the US, while funding has continued to increase in countries such as Germany, China, Japan and Korea.

“Second, they will help re-energize and re-establish U.S. leadership in advanced manufacturing, creating countless new inventions and products, hundreds of thousands of jobs and ensuring national security. Our nation’s leadership in manufacturing has been declining, with 28 percent of high technology manufacturing jobs lost over the last decade.  The FY13 proposed budgets for NSF and NIST make advanced manufacturing a top priority, with robust investments in key areas that will heighten the speed and efficiency of manufacturing processes, produce new state of the art cyber and communications technologies and improve automation and reliability.

“Third, researchers need the certainty of sustained funding in order to deliver results from long-term projects.   Major scientific breakthroughs, new discoveries and the cutting edge new technologies that fuel our economy typically take many years to come to fruition, requiring sustained efforts and funding over multiple years.

“Now let me give you some concrete examples of the direct benefits sustained federal R&D investments have had:

“Consider the laser, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010. Using federal funding, Theodore Maiman developed the first ruby red laser at Hughes Research Labs in 1960. At the time of its creation, the laser had few known applications.  It was known as the ‘solution looking for a problem.’   Today, the laser touches virtually all aspects of daily life from bar code scanners to fiber optics that provide high-speed Internet to life-enhancing medical technologies such as the three dimensional images of human tissues and laser eye surgery.  The federal funding used to create the laser was an investment made a half century ago that is still creating thousands of jobs and providing billions of dollars in economic activity today.

“NSF funded research at the University of California-Davis has transformed the i-Phone into a medical-quality imaging and a chemical detection device.  The enhanced i-Phone could help doctors and nurses diagnose blood diseases in remote areas, the military field and developing nations, where hospitals and rural clinics have limited or no access to laboratory equipment.  NSF is supporting transformative research in advanced-technology manufacturing by investing in research that makes manufacturing processes faster, cheaper and more efficient

“NIST research helped fuel the creation of everything from mammograms to semiconductors which power computers as well as laser tracker measurement systems used in the aerospace and automotive industries, among others.   NIST research is currently focused on promoting energy-efficiency and alternative energy sources, both of which save money and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.
“Mr. Chairman, these may be difficult economic times but through continued, sustained investments in R&D programs at NSF and NIST will help revitalize U.S. manufacturing, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and spur innovations that will lead to a better quality of life for millions of people in the U.S. and around the globe.

“Once again, we greatly appreciate this committee’s leadership and look forward to working with you as you move forward with the FY13 budget process.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics