PCAST released a new report on Friday called “Transformation and Opportunity: The Future of the Research Enterprise” at the National Academy of Sciences. While acknowledging America’s continued success in scientific and technological research and development, the report warns that we must not be complacent in our position as the world leader. Global competition in scientific research continues to increase and corporate focus is more and more on near term development and less on basic and longer term applied research.
“We need to strengthen basic research at our great universities—that’s the primary platform on which new industries are built. And we need policies that encourage industry to keep the commercially directed parts of research and development in the United States. If we do both, then we can continue to create new industries and new jobs here at home,” said William Press, PCAST member and co-chair of the working group that wrote the report.
At the release event, Subra Suresh, NSF Director, spoke about the importance of increasing the funding for basic research and the need for more interdisciplinary research. “Risk taking interdisciplinary research leads to a change in culture at institutions” and a break down of stove pipes, Suresh said.
The report recommends:
- Increased R&D spending to 3 percent of GDP from the current rate of 2.9 percent of GDP
- Increased stability and predictability of federal research funding, including funding for research infrastructure and facilities
- Make the research and experimentation tax credit permanent and increase the rate of the alternative simplified credit to 20 percent
- Eliminate regulations and policies that do not add value or enhance accountability—especially those that decrease the productivity of the Nation’s research universities
- Improve undergraduate STEM education by adopting empirically validated best practices to attract and retain the most talented and motivated STEM students, as described in more detail in PCAST’s recent “Engage to Excel” report
- Attract and retain the world’s best researchers and students from abroad by, for example, giving STEM graduates from accredited U.S. universities a fast-tracked, long-term visa
On the last recommendation, the House of Representatives passed the STEM Jobs Act of 2012 on Friday. It would abolish the current visa lottery system and implement 55,000 visas for doctorate and masters level STEM graduates.