With all the recent upheaval in the news after the release of the President’s proposed budget, I wanted to speak to what makes America great. Scientific research is a major contributor to national success and growth. America is a nation that all others look to when it comes to innovation. If we need want to maintain our place in the world we will need to stay ahead of competing nations. According to 21st Century Tech in 2016, who sited many sources, “For every dollar invested by the government the American economy and other countries’ economies have seen $7 to $14 in new revenue, all from spin-offs and licensing arrangements. That amounts to in $17.6 billion current NASA dollars spent to an economic boost worth as much as $246.4 billion annually.” This type of investment cannot be ignored for its ability to help grow the economy and provide industries to employ American workers. President Obama recognized the economic contribution of scientific research when he addressed the National Academy of Sciences in 2009 saying, “Science is more essential for our prosperity, our health, our environment and our quality of life than it has ever been before.” Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health for the United States supported his statement by saying, “Biomedical research has generally been looked at for its health benefits, but the case for it generating economic growth is pretty compelling.”
According to the respected journal Nature, “Gathering Storm recommended that federal investment in basic research should increase by 10% every year for seven years, and led Congress to consider spending increases of that order, mainly in the physical sciences and engineering.” With overwhelming evidence like this it clear that there is a national imperative that we increase the spending on scientific research as well as increase our emphasis on science skills in primary and secondary education. In states like Illinois elementary teachers are only required to teach 2 hours of science or social studies a week. You read that correctly, there is an OR in there that shows the lack of emphasis on science. In 2011 the Economics & Statistics Administration, a branch of the US Department of Commerce predicted, “STEM occupations are projected to grow by 17.0 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations,” going on to add that there are financial benefits as well, “STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts,” Including the advantage, “STEM degree holders enjoy higher earnings, regardless of whether they work in STEM or non-STEM occupations.” All is not lost; presidential budgets are not concrete facts. Most presidential budgets are just a wish lists that Congress ignores. Make sure your representatives know how you feel about funding STEM programs.