A new report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences calls for annual U.S. investments in research and development (R&D) equal to 3.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The risk if such a goal is not met are long-term changes in “the trajectory of American innovation for many years to come,” according to the report.

The United States ranks tenth globally in total R&D investments as a percentage of GDP. As the report points out, China is expected to invest more in science than the U.S. within a decade, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of economic output.

“Innovation relies on breakthrough discoveries that are primarily the products of fundamental, curiosity-driven research. Yet companies—finding it increasingly difficult to justify such long-term investments in a market environment focused on short-term results—have made it clear that the federal government must continue to be the primary funder of basic research. It is therefore worrisome that federal support for basic research has dropped 13 percent below the level measured ten years ago as a percentage of GDP.”

The committee calls for federal investments in basic research to grow by at least 4 percent annually. This is the same rate of growth as American science grew on average between 1975 and 1992.

The report was prepared by a group of notable players in the U.S. innovation ecosystem, including Norman Augustine, former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin; Neal Lane, former director of the National Science Foundation and the Office of Science and Technology Policy; Steven Chu, former Secretary of Energy; and Bart Gordon, former chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.


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