Omenn Calls For Broad U.S. Effort To Improve The Climate For Innovation
Gilbert S. Omenn
AAAS has urged the White House and Congress to take strong steps to sustain
American innovation by investing in high-risk, breakthrough research and by
improving science education at all levels.
In a 9 December letter to President George W. Bush, AAAS President Gilbert S.
Omenn noted that, while corporate research has increased during the past few
decades, "fewer and fewer firms are able or willing to justify broad basic
research on which they readily admit that they depend. We do not want to put our
country and our knowledge-based, technology-driven economy in the position of
Speaking for the AAAS Board of Directors, Omenn said there is a broad consensus
among business, academic and labor leaders on the need to strengthen U.S.
research "and ensure that Americans have the education and training needed to
compete in an economy where success is tightly tied to an ability to learn,
invent, and adapt to new ideas."
Omenn said the AAAS board is "deeply concerned by the country's chronic
inability to attract enough students into fields of science, technology,
engineering and mathematics."
There have been several recent calls for more attention to the innovation issue,
including the National Summit on Competitiveness, hosted earlier this month by
the Department of Commerce in conjunction with other Cabinet-level departments
and business organizations.
Omenn cited the summit as well as reports issued by the Council on
Competitiveness and the National Academy of
Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. The
"Rising Above the Gathering Storm,"
was released this fall; it had been requested by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural
Resources. The report outlined four sets of actions that AAAS endorses:
- Enhance budgets for fundamental research;
- Invest in a far better-prepared, better-educated domestic workforce;
- Improve accessibility and receptivity to international students, scientists
and engineers; and
- Create and expand incentives for innovation.
There is bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for such measures.
"We are still in a position of global leadership," Omenn said in his letter to
President Bush. "The challenge is to take action now throughout the
Administration, in the Congress, and, if appropriate, in your upcoming State of
the Union address to advance the innovation agenda."
Read the text of the letter here.
[Postscript: After this letter was written, President Bush met with
Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Pete V.
Domenici (R-N.M.). Omenn has since written a second letter to the
president, thanking him for meeting with the congressional leaders
to discuss the importance of innovation and research. See the full