Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Texas Is Home to NASA, but Lags as a Science Powerhouse ; the State Forms a 'Brain Trust' to Capture More Federal R&D Funding in Hopes of Boosting the Economy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Texas Is Home to NASA, but Lags as a Science Powerhouse ; the State Forms a 'Brain Trust' to Capture More Federal R&D Funding in Hopes of Boosting the Economy

Article excerpt

The eyes of the nation were on Houston on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong called out from the moon, "Houston, the Eagle has landed."

But while "Houston" may have been the first word spoken on the lunar surface, many Americans no longer equate the Lone Star State with scientific frontiers: today, Massachusetts, New York, and California more likely come to mind when you're thinking of gigabytes and nanotech.

But Texas is taking steps to change that. Last week, under the direction of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R), more than 200 leading Texas scientists and researchers, including 11 Nobel laureates, gathered for the kick-off of the new Texas Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

The academy - a concept that's been successful elsewhere - is designed to raise the national profile of Texas research by promoting work being done here.

"This academy is the next step in elevating Texas' profile as a science state," says Senator Hutchison. "By bringing local and national recognition to our members, we hope to attract and retain researchers, increase federal resources coming into Texas, and shine a spotlight on the cutting-edge discoveries made daily."

Such academies bring a variety of benefits, but the underlying motivation is economic. In Texas, for instance, research has a $4.4 billion impact on the economy and for every $1 invested, the state gets a $5 return. In addition, states heavily involved in basic research - funded almost entirely by government - greatly improve their access to applied research, which is funded almost entirely by industry. That means more businesses and better jobs.

"That's why it's important for states to try and figure out a plan for procuring research dollars," says Nathaniel Pitts, director of the office of integrative activities at the National Science Foundation.

Even with a Texan in the White House and another as majority leader in the US House of Representatives, Texas lags in federal funding. Just a few years ago, the state ranked sixth in receipt of federal research and development dollars. Today, it still ranks only fifth. Part of that may be its late start in doing research. …

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