Seventy-five years ago, at the close of World War II, presidential adviser Vannevar Bush sent a report to the White House that laid the groundwork for virtually every major scientific and technological advancement – from the moon landing to the Internet to chemotherapy – that the United States has produced since. By calling for robust government investment in university-based scientific research, Bush’s “Science, the Endless Frontier” helped make the United States the world’s scientific leader.
In recent years, however, that partnership has waned – even as China and other nations have invested more in their scientific and research enterprises. The United States needs to double down on our global scientific leadership with a renewed commitment to the government-university partnership. Since World War II, when visionary Vannevar Bush wrote to then-President Truman calling for robust federal investment in basic scientific research through universities, the United States has benefitted from a robust government-university partnership.
American companies have relied on university-based research— much of it funded by the U.S. government—to develop industrial products, processes, and services that have not only driven economic growth, but have also made Americans healthier and helped create the nation’s unmatched military superiority. Moreover, this research has fueled world-leading innovations in medicine and protected global public health in pandemics.
To ensure American society continues to reap the benefits of science in an era when other nations are challenging the United States’ scientific leadership, it is essential that the federal government maintain and grow its support for university-based scientific research. AAU recommends enhancing government support for university research and strengthening the nation’s talent pool in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. For instance:
The federal government should fund fundamental scientific research sufficiently and reliably. The federal government should institute programs that provide steady funding streams for multi-year periods and don’t demand greater emphasis on applied or targeted research than fundamental research.
Federal policymakers should reduce burdens caused by complex, excessive, duplicative, and unnecessary regulations placed on federally funded research projects.
It is time for the United States to reinvest in the government-university partnership that helped make us the world’s scientific, economic, military, and higher education leader.