By Timothy B. Hurst
President commits more than 3% of GDP to research & development
On Monday, President Barack Obama reiterated his administration's focus on science by promising a new level of commitment—one with the same intensity and urgency as that which put Americans on the moon—and stressing that "the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over."
"We have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas," said Mr. Obama.
Speaking at the 146th National Academy of Science annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Mr. Obama pledged to raise spending on research and development to more than three percent of the nation's gross domestic product, an increase of approximately $46 billion annually. "This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history," said the President.
The federal share of the proposed increase on scientific research and development is in the ballpark of $15 billion — $15 billion that is no easy sell in today's tough economic climate.
"We have finally closed the books on the Bush era of climate denial once and for all," said Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, in a Tuesday statement. "Science is allowed to lead and agencies like the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency are once again in the business of protecting the public and our planet," Pope said in advance of President Obama's 100th day in office on April 30.
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Much of President Obama's remarks centered on the role of math and science in developing a new ways to create and save energy, stressing that faith in scientific inquiry should be embraced, not shunned, in the face of difficult challenges like global climate change. "Our future on this planet depends on our willingness to address the challenge posed by carbon pollution," said Mr. Obama. "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."
The President also announced for the first time that the the government would be funding an initiative recommended by the NAS called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E). ARPA-E is modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was created during the Eisenhower administration in response to Sputnik and charged throughout its history with conducting the kind of high-risk, high-reward research that produced the APRANET, the precursor to the internet, stealth technology, and Global Positioning System.
The President said that to rise to the challenge of global climate change, the United States "will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race."