The governors of 27 states have sent a letter to President Bush urging him to “ensure that federal funding for university-based research remains a top national priority” in FY 2006 and beyond. In their letter, the 16 Democratic and 11 Republican governors make the case that basic research has been the fuel for innovation in their states — as well as a creator of high-wage jobs and an enabler of workforce productivity — and they credit the universities and labs performing the research with being “the training ground for our country’s next generation of highly-skilled workers.” They also cite the changing competitive environment that challenges current U.S. dominance in technology innovation:
Through economic globalization, competition in research and development has risen dramatically in the last few years. Asian and European countries have committed new resources to scientific and engineering research programs at nearly unprecedented rates. While the U.S. currently remains a global leader in science and technology, we must continue to be at the forefront of discovery and development. Only by investing in the research of today can we take full advantage of the innovations of tomorrow. Despite a period of scarce resources, basic science and engineering research is a vital national investment.
This is an important message for the President to hear, especially as the Administration is working now to put together his FY 2007 budget in time for its February release.
Unfortunately, the U.S. basic research enterprise is going to need all the help it can get. As we’ve noted before, it appears that pressures will be high on Congress to cut mandatory and discretionary spending (including federal science agencies) to offset the spiraling costs for hurricane relief and a possible tax cut. Yesterday, House Majority Leader Roy Blunt noted that Congress will be focusing on three pieces of budget legislation before they wrap up the current session this fall: a package carving savings from mandatory programs, an across-the-board cut in discretionary spending and a new hurricane relief package. Any across-the-board cut is likely to once again fall on agencies like the National Science Foundation, which suffered a similar 2 percent cut last year.
So any effort by an influential group like the 27 governors who signed this letter (and thanks to the Science Coalition for “working” this letter), is useful in the attempt to reverse what is becoming a very damaging trend of cutbacks in federal support for fundamental research.
Here’s the full letter (pdf, 1 mb). Did your governor sign?