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The ‘Ice Road Truckers of Science’ and Why We Need Them

Rebecca Blank, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Brad Schwartz, CEO of the biomedical Morgridge Institute for Research in Madison, wrote in support of basic science in this commentary published by The Hill.

"Thinking is incredibly boring to watch, which is probably why “Petri Dish Warriors” would never reach the prime-time success of “Ice Road Truckers,” the authors wrote. "But curiosity-driven research allows us to invent things that no one else has thought of, leading to ideas that over time will create jobs, save lives and drive the economy.

"If the United States were to lose our advantage in basic discoveries, we would risk undermining the strength of our economy and our global leadership."

The authors said they were "alarmed" that federal funding for research and development has dropped from almost 10 percent of the budget in 1968 to roughly 3 percent in 2015.

Noting that "For the first time in our lifetimes, we face a strong anti-science presence in national policy debates," the authors pointed out that "All the technology that has transformed everyday life — smartphones, tablets, GPS systems — relies on fundamental science research that was done decades ago."

"But even if we can’t draw a direct line from today’s projects to tomorrow’s innovations, the risk of not funding basic science strikes at the core of our nation’s identity and prosperity."

Read the full article.