Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Sequestration Is Imperiling Scientific Research -- and Economic Growth

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Sequestration Is Imperiling Scientific Research -- and Economic Growth

Article excerpt

Congress' recent action to allow the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to avoid furloughs of air traffic controllers is an indication that the fiscal sequester is starting to bite. Less visible, but no less real, is the harm to our economic growth that will result from drastic across-the-board sequestration cuts to agencies that support scientific research.

A recent open letter to Congress signed by more than 50 Nobel laureates warned that these cuts would severely damage the work being done at scientific agencies including the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology -- all of which fund cutting-edge research that have led to discoveries that improved our quality of life, strengthened national security and enhanced economic growth. The Internet, laser technologies and GPS are but a few of the myriad discoveries that trace their roots to early scientific research.

One means of increasing public awareness has been a recent spate of television commercials that acknowledge the connection between basic research of scientists and engineers in the lab, and the resulting cutting-edge technology that profoundly improves people's lives. A Verizon commercial pointed out that science and technology can provide "powerful answers" to our problems.

Polls conducted by the American Physical Society have found that many folks do not recognize the role that basic research plays in their daily lives. Even more under-appreciated is that most of the research that impacts us is federally funded, carried out at universities and national laboratories with no immediate expectation of profit.

NSF founded in 1950

The U.S. government began supporting scientific research in earnest in 1950, with the establishment of the National Science Foundation. From elucidating the basic properties of novel semiconductors and metals to studying the magnetic structure of atomic nuclei that led to the development of magnetic resonance imaging, our tax dollars have supported advanced, exploratory research that has laid the groundwork for new industries and technologies.

For example, many of us own tablet computers or smartphones that allows us to alter the display using one or two fingers. …

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