President’s Budget Proposal a Mixed Bag for Science

Administration Continues to Emphasize Importance of Science, but Investment in Basic Research Falls Short, says American Geophysical Union

5 March 2014

WASHINGTON, DC—The following statement is attributable to American Geophysical Union (AGU) executive director/CEO Christine McEntee:

“When President Obama delivered his State of the Union address just a few short weeks ago, he spoke about it being time for the United States to “unleash the next generation of American discovery.” In many ways, his budget proposal is a testament to that goal. In many other ways, it misses the mark.

As has been clear throughout his tenure, President Obama is committed to equipping the American public, businesses, and our economy to adapt to and mitigate the accelerating impacts of climate change. His proposal helps advance this goal by increasing funding for climate change research and programs across numerous agencies in addition to creating a separate $1 billion fund for climate resiliency.

It has also been clear that he has a strong vision for advancing American innovation. However, by dedicating less than 25% of R&D funding to basic research, his current proposal ties the hands of the scientific community, and limits our ability to pursue the basic research that fuels economic growth. Scientific innovation nearly always grows from the bottom up, not the top down.

On the surface, the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative appears to be an excellent opportunity to strategically increase our investment in programs such as climate resilience and National Science Foundation grants designed to “to expand the frontiers of knowledge.” However, by failing to directly integrate these investments into the budgets of the responsible agencies, the President’s proposal will make it more difficult for Congress to negotiate a final budget that will make these programs successful.

While it seems unlikely that this budget proposal will move forward unchanged, we strongly encourage Congress not to lose sight of the impact that significant investments in scientific R&D have on the stability of our economy, the health and safety of our people, and the security of our nation. History has shown us that impact can be game-changing. Federally supported basic research has led to innovations such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), hundreds of technological spinoffs from the space program, including heart monitors and solar panels, and severe weather detection systems and earthquake hazard mapping.

If we want to reap the benefits of America’s capacity for innovation we cannot abdicate our responsibility to invest in basic, as well as applied research. We encourage Congress to recognize that issues such as energy innovation and the impacts of our changing climate aren’t limited to red states, or blue states. They impact families and communities, people, environmental and religious groups, small businesses and Fortune 500 companies equally, which means that they are tailor-made for bipartisan support. Americans deserve nothing less.”

The American Geophysical Union is dedicated to advancing the Earth and space sciences for the benefit of humanity through its scholarly publications, conferences, and outreach programs. AGU is a not-for-profit, professional, scientific organization representing more than 62,000 members in 144 countries. Join the conversation on FacebookTwitter, YouTube, and our other social media channels.

AGU Contact:

Joan Buhrman: 202-777-7509, [email protected]