The Science Gap

Congress has not followed up with the appropriations necessary to double funding for basic research.

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idea light bulbThe National Science Foundation, or NSF; the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST; and the Department of Energy Office of Science, or DOE Science, provide a substantial amount of the country’s basic research funding, which underpins much of the United States’ technological progress. These three basic research agencies have a history of bipartisan support—President George W. Bush first called for doubling their funding in his 2006 State of the Union address, and a similar plan was endorsed by the bipartisan America COMPETES Acts of 2007 and 2010, as well as by President Barack Obama.

Despite bipartisan agreement to double funding for basic research, Congress has not followed up with the appropriations necessary to meet this goal. In the three years after the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 was passed, NSF, NIST, and DOE Science faced a gap of nearly $6 billion in funding; this can be thought of as “Science Gap 1.0.” Given the huge return on investment from basic research, this lost funding has major economic implications and even risks eroding the science-based military advantage that serves as a cornerstone of our national security.

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