President Barack Obama stresses the importance of science, research and technology to the economy of a nation - most importantly to the United States of America, where success is deeply rooted in the advancements of the sciences.
Well, thank you so much for the wonderful welcome. To President Cicerone, thank you very much for your leadership and for hosting us today. To John Holdren, thanks, John, for the outstanding work that you are doing.
I was just informed backstage that Ralph and John both are 1965 graduates of MIT - same class. And so I'm not sure this is the perfectly prescribed scientific method, but they're sort of a control group - (laughter) - who ages faster: The President's Science Advisor or the President of the Academy? (Laughter) And we'll check in in a couple of years. But it is wonderful to see them.
To all of you, to my Cabinet Secretaries and team who are here, thank you. It is a great privilege to address the distinguished members of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as the leaders of the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine who've gathered here this morning.
And I'd like to begin today with a story of a previous visitor who also addressed this august body. In April of 1921, Albert Einstein visited the United States for the first time. And his international credibility was growing as scientists around the world began to understand and accept the vast implications of his theories of special and general relativity. And he attended this annual meeting, and after sitting through a series of long speeches by others, he reportedly said, "I have just got a new theory of eternity." (Laughter) So I will do my best to heed this cautionary tale. (Laughter)
The very founding of this institution stands as a testament to the restless curiosity, the boundless hope so essential not just to the scientific enterprise, but to this experiment we call America.
A few months after a devastating defeat at Fredericksburg, before Gettysburg would be won, before Richmond would fall, before the fate of the Union would be at all certain, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act creating the National Academy of Sciences - in the midst of civil war.
Lincoln refused to accept that our nation's sole purpose was mere survival. He created this academy, founded the land grant colleges, and began the work of the transcontinental railroad, believing that we must add - and I quote - "the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discovery... of new and useful things."
This is America's story. Even in the hardest times, against the toughest odds, we've never given in to pessimism; we've never surrendered our fates to chance; we have endured; we have worked hard; we sought out new frontiers.
Today, of course, we face more complex challenges than we have ever faced before: a medical system that holds the promise of unlocking new cures and treatments - attached to a health care system that holds the potential for bankruptcy to families and businesses; a system of energy that powers our economy, but simultaneously endangers our planet; threats to our security that seek to exploit the very interconnectedness and openness so essential to our prosperity; and challenges in a global marketplace which links the derivative trader on Wall Street to the homeowner on Main Street, the office worker in America to the factory worker in China - a marketplace in which we all share in opportunity, but also in crisis.
At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science, that support for research is somehow a luxury at moments defined by necessities. I fundamentally disagree. Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been before. (Applause)
And if there was ever a day that reminded us of our shared stake in science and research, it's today. We are closely monitoring the emerging cases of swine flu in the United States. And this is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert. But it's not a cause for alarm. The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency as a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively. And I'm getting regular updates on the situation from the responsible agencies. And the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control will be offering regular updates to the American people. And Secretary Napolitano will be offering regular updates to the American people, as well, so that they know what steps are being taken and what steps they may need to take.
But one thing is clear - our capacity to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community. And this is one more example of why we can't allow our nation to fall behind.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what's happened.
Federal funding in the physical sciences as a portion of our gross domestic product has fallen by nearly half over the past quarter century. Time and again we've allowed the research and experimentation tax credit, which helps businesses grow and innovate, to lapse.
Our schools continue to trail other developed countries and, in some cases, developing countries. Our students are outperformed in math and science by their peers in Singapore, Japan, England, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Korea, among others. Another assessment shows American 15-year-olds ranked 25th in math and 21st in science when compared to nations around the world. And we have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas.
We know that our country is better than this. A half century ago, this nation made a commitment to lead the world in scientific and technological innovation; to invest in education, in research, in engineering; to set a goal of reaching space and engaging every citizen in that historic mission. That was the high water mark of America's investment in research and development. And since then our investments have steadily declined as a share of our national income. As a result, other countries are now beginning to pull ahead in the pursuit of this generation's great discoveries.
I believe it is not in our character, the American character, to follow. It's our character to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. So I'm here today to set this goal: We will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development. We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science. (Applause)
This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history.
Just think what this will allow us to accomplish: solar cells as cheap as paint; green buildings that produce all the energy they consume; learning software as effective as a personal tutor; prosthetics so advanced that you could play the piano again; an expansion of the frontiers of human knowledge about ourselves and world the around us. We can do this.
The pursuit of discovery half a century ago fueled our prosperity and our success as a nation in the half century that followed. The commitment I am making today will fuel our success for another 50 years. That's how we will ensure that our children and their children will look back on this generation's work as that which defined the progress and delivered the prosperity of the 21st century.
This work begins with a historic commitment to basic science and applied research, from the labs of renowned universities to the proving grounds of innovative companies.
Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and with the support of Congress, my administration is already providing the largest single boost to investment in basic research in American history. That's already happened.
This is important right now, as public and private colleges and universities across the country reckon with shrinking endowments and tightening budgets. But this is also incredibly important for our future. As Vannevar Bush, who served as scientific advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt, famously said: "Basic scientific research is scientific capital."
The fact is an investigation into a particular physical, chemical, or biological process might not pay off for a year, or a decade, or at all. And when it does, the rewards are often broadly shared, enjoyed by those who bore its costs but also by those who did not.
And that's why the private sector generally under-invests in basic science, and why the public sector must invest in this kind of research - because while the risks may be large, so are the rewards for our economy and our society.
No one can predict what new applications will be born of basic research: new treatments in our hospitals, or new sources of efficient energy; new building materials; new kinds of crops more resistant to heat and to drought.
It was basic research in the photoelectric field - in the photoelectric effect that would one day lead to solar panels. It was basic research in physics that would eventually produce the CAT scan. The calculations of today's GPS satellites are based on the equations that Einstein put to paper more than a century ago.
In addition to the investments in the Recovery Act, the budget I've proposed - and versions have now passed both the House and the Senate - builds on the historic investments in research contained in the recovery plan.
So we double the budget of key agencies, including the National Science Foundation, a primary source of funding for academic research; and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which supports a wide range of pursuits from improving health information technology to measuring carbon pollution, from - from testing "smart grid" designs to developing advanced manufacturing processes.
And my budget doubles funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, which builds and operates accelerators, colliders, supercomputers, high-energy light sources, and facilities for making nano-materials - because we know that a nation's potential for scientific discovery is defined by the tools that it makes available to its researchers.
But the renewed commitment of our nation will not be driven by government investment alone. It's a commitment that extends from the laboratory to the marketplace. And that's why my budget makes the research and experimentation tax credit permanent. This is a tax credit that returns two dollars to the economy for every dollar we spend, by helping companies afford the often high costs of developing new ideas, new technologies, and new products. Yet at times we've allowed it to lapse or only renewed it year to year. I've heard this time and again from entrepreneurs across this country: By making this credit permanent we make it possible for businesses to plan the kinds of projects that create jobs and economic growth.
Second, in no area will innovation be more important than in the development of new technologies to produce, use, and save energy - which is why my administration has made an unprecedented commitment to developing a 21st century clean energy economy, and why we put a scientist in charge of the Department of Energy. (Applause)
Our future on this planet depends on our willingness to address the challenge posed by carbon pollution. And our future as a nation depends upon our willingness to embrace this challenge as an opportunity to lead the world in pursuit of new discovery.
When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik a little more than a half century ago, Americans were stunned. The Russians had beaten us to space. And we had to make a choice: We could accept defeat or we could accept the challenge. And as always, we chose to accept the challenge.
President Eisenhower signed legislation to create NASA and to invest in science and math education, from grade school to graduate school. And just a few years later, a month after his address to the 1961 Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, President Kennedy boldly declared before a joint session of Congress that the United States would send a man to the moon and return him safely to the Earth.
The scientific community rallied behind this goal and set about achieving it. And it would not only lead to those first steps on the moon; it would lead to giant leaps in our understanding here at home. That Apollo program produced technologies that have improved kidney dialysis and water purification systems; sensors to test for hazardous gasses; energy-saving building materials; fire-resistant fabrics used by firefighters and soldiers. More broadly, the enormous investment in that era
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the Decade of Difference concert celebrating 10 years of philanthropic activity by the Clinton Foundation. Clinton takes time to thank his many celebrity and citizen friends who have partnered with the Foundation over the years to fight diseases like AIDS and assist in recovery efforts in locations like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and Port-au-Prince, Haiti after the earthquake.0 people like this