A group of industry, higher education, and scientific organizations has reissued a statement calling for Congress to increase federal support of basic research, streamline research regulations, and reaffirm merit-based review, among other actions.
Last summer, over 250 industry, higher education, and scientific organizations signed a statement entitled "Innovation: An American Imperative," calling on Congress to "enact policies and make investments that ensure the United States remains the global innovation leader." On the one-year anniversary of the statement, a broader coalition of over 500 organizations reiterated the call, reissuing the statement alongside a progress report summarizing developments to date.
The statement emphasizes that "Our leadership is now at risk because of years of under-prioritizing federal scientific research investments and policies that promote innovation. Now is not the time to rest on past success. ... Competitor nations are challenging our leadership by copying our playbook for success. At the same time our nation’s support for scientific research and innovation is stagnating. If these trends continue, other countries will soon surpass the United States as the global innovation leader."
The American Institute of Physics and seven of its Member Societies — Acoustical Society of America, American Association of Physicists in Medicine, American Association of Physics Teachers, American Astronomical Society, American Meteorological Society, American Physical Society, and The Optical Society — are signatories of both the original and reissued statements.
The organizations advocate for Congress to take the following seven actions:
- Renew the federal commitment to scientific discovery;
- Make permanent a strengthened federal R&D tax credit;
- Improve student achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics;
- Reform U.S. visa policy;
- Take steps to streamline or eliminate costly and inefficient regulations;
- Reaffirm merit-based peer review; and
- Stimulate further improvements in advanced manufacturing.
The progress report notes that Congress expanded and made permanent the R&D tax credit in last year’s omnibus appropriations act. The report also lists reforming visa policy as “awaiting action” and the other five actions as “in progress.”
One of the coalition’s primary goals is for Congress to end the cuts to discretionary spending caps caused by sequestration and provide sustained growth of at least four percent per year in funding for basic research at the following agencies: the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy Office of Science, the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
With the 5.3 percent increase in overall discretionary spending for fiscal year 2016 authorized by the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act, many of the agencies listed above received increases above four percent in last year’s omnibus appropriations act. However, the discretionary spending cap for fiscal year 2017 is only slightly higher than the fiscal year 2016 cap, meaning that additional funding is much harder to acquire this appropriations cycle. With the exception of NIH, most agencies are not on track to receive funding increases near four percent.