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Leshner, Omenn: “America Can’t Afford to Lose Its Edge”
ST. LOUIS — In a commentary published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner and President Gilbert S. Omenn offered strong support for innovation initiatives offered by President George W. Bush and members of Congress. But they called for federal budget support sufficient to turn the aspirations into accomplishments.
The commentary was published Thursday 16 February, as the 2006 AAAS Annual Meeting opened in St. Louis.
“The Congress has tough budgeting choices to make,” Omenn and Leshner wrote. “Although we have been cutting taxes and using huge amounts of taxpayer funds to pay for a war on terrorism, reconstruction in Iraq and interest on mounting budget deficits, we can't afford to shortchange either our research enterprise or the education goals we have for our children.”
At stake are potential gains that could have an impact on the daily lives of every American, they wrote. Past federal investment has yielded the Internet; new treatments for skin-cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other afflictions; a cleaner environment; and new treatments for drug addiction.
“Even before the modern information revolution,” Leshner and Omenn wrote, “economists concluded that technological innovations account for up to 85 percent of growth in per capita income in the United States and 50 percent of overall economic growth. While we have grown complacent or distracted, other nations have learned from our success. In 1992, China ranked 17th among nations in its support for science; today it is third. Only 11 percent of all U.S. bachelor’s degrees were in natural science or engineering, compared to the global average of 23 percent and 50 percent in China.
“Protecting our nation’s security includes protecting our economic security. America today remains the world leader in innovation, but our lead is slipping. We must inspire our children and our communities to look towards the future. We must make the investments that will invigorate research, strengthen science education and nurture innovation in all fields.”
Leshner is chief executive of AAAS executive publisher of its journal, Science. Omenn is president of AAAS, is a professor of medicine, genetics and public health at the University of Michigan.
To read the full commentary, click here.
Edward W. Lempinen
17 February 2006