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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Science and Budgets – Looking Forward, Intelligently

After eight years of President Bush blocking and denying science, current threats to science arise from tea partiers who offer mindless budget cutting generalities, sometimes supplemented by bible thumping. And, some offer tax subsidies for cheap, local manufacturing, but that is not a viable long term strategy for our nation. Why? Because more and more manufacturing will be accomplished by robots and manufacturing "printers" that build new devices layer by layer from digital plans. Indeed, the latter earned the February 10, 2011 cover story on the Economist (see Print me a Stradivarius). For a more local example, get a high-tech dentist and ask to watch your next dental crown being made by a mini-machine that whirs into action based on digital images of your tooth. Or, read about it here at CAD-CAM dentistry on Wikipedia.

We were not always a manufacturing nation. Indeed, we were once agrarians. Thing changed, and our nation grew and prospered. Now, society here is changing again. We are no longer the best and cheapest to make things. So, where should we be going? Where do we have to be going?

Forward. Through science. New knowledge, new jobs, and knowledge-based products we do not yet have or even imagine. New products such as monoclonal antibodies that block diseases. They can save lives, create jobs, and reduce health care costs.

Happily, President and Mrs. Obama "get" and support the value of science. Accordingly, the President’s budget promotes science and basic research. Specifics are provided by an OMB statement that is here on the White House website. Some key quotes are below; hat tip to Patent Docs for flagging the statement.

Support Biomedical Research at the National Institutes of Health. The Budget includes $32 billion for basic and applied biomedical research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Innovation in this field creates and sustains companies, products, and jobs. Through implementation of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and the Cures Acceleration Network, NIH will increase its focus on bridging the translational divide between basic science and therapeutic applications. By fostering novel collaborations among government, academia, and industry, NIH will accelerate the development of treatments for diseases and disorders that affect millions of Americans. NIH will continue to pursue the leading edge of discovery in basic cancer science, development of new cancer treatments, and prevention and early detection of cancer, focusing on recent discoveries regarding cancer genomes. For Alzheimer’s disease, NIH is partnering with the private sector to find new methods for early diagnosis and to support early drug discovery and preclinical drug development. Ongoing research into environmental factors, early detection, and novel treatments will transform our understanding and care for those with autism spectrum disorders.

Increase Investment in Research and Development and Create Transformational Technologies. For many years, the United States has been a world leader in research and development (R&D) spending, as well as in the quality and impact of that spending. The challenge is for the Nation to make private and public investments in science, research and development that will keep the U.S. as the world’s leader in innovation for decades to come. The 2012 Budget does that by providing $148 billion for R&D overall, while targeting resources to those areas most likely to directly contribute to the creation of transformational technologies that can create the businesses and jobs of the future. The Budget makes progress toward the President’s commitment to double funding for key basic research agencies: the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories. These funds will be directed at priority areas, such as clean energy technologies, advanced manufacturing technologies, and cyber security. In addition, the Budget provides $12 million in NIST for the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia program, a new public-private partnership that will develop road maps for long-term industrial research needs and fund research at universities, government laboratories, and businesses directed at meeting those needs. The Budget also funds research at the National Institutes of Health with an increased focus on translating research discovering into clinical trials. These funds will directed at priority areas, such as clean energy technologies, advanced manufacturing technologies, and cyber security. The Budget also funds research at the National Institutes of Health with an increased focus on translating research discovering into clinical trials.

Prepare 100,000 STEM Teachers over the Next Decade. Students need to master science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in order to thrive in the 21st Century economy. Steadily, we have seen other nations gain ground in preparing their children in these critical fields. That is why the President has set the ambitious goal of preparing 100,000 STEM teachers over the next decade, and recruiting 10,000 STEM teachers over the next two years. The Budget allocates $100 million toward that goal, including $80 million from the Department of Education dedicated to teacher pathways that successfully prepare effective STEM teachers and $20 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to launch a new teacher-training research program called Teacher Learning for the Future. In cooperation with the Department of Education, NSF’s Teacher Learning for the Future program will fund innovative efforts that design, develop, implement, and test new teacher-training programs. These programs will be developed in conjunction with a government-wide effort to improve the impact of Federal investments in math and science education by ensuring that all programs supporting K-12 and undergraduate education adhere to consistent standards of effectiveness.


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