WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama promised a new era of science and technology for the nation, telling the National Academy of Sciences on Monday that he wants to devote more funds to research and development.
America has fallen behind other countries in science, Obama said.
“I believe it is not in our character, American character, to follow — but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than 3 percent of our gross domestic product to research and development,” Obama said in a speech at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences.
That 3 percent would amount to about $420 billion.
“We will not just meet but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race,” he said.
That pursuit of discovery a half century ago fueled the nation’s prosperity and success, Obama told the academy.
“The commitment I am making today will fuel our success for another 50 years,” he said. “This work begins with an historic commitment to basic science and applied research.”
And he set forth a wish list including solar cells as cheap as paint; green buildings that produce all the energy they consume; learning software as effective as a personal tutor; prosthetics so advanced that you could play the piano again and “an expansion of the frontiers of human knowledge about ourselves and world the around us.’
“We can do this,” Obama said to applause.
In recent years, he said, “scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas.”
He then drew chuckles, commenting: “I want to be sure that facts are driving scientific decisions, not the other way around,” Obama said.
“At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science, that support for research is somehow a luxury at a moment defined by necessities. I fundamentally disagree,” Obama said.
“Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been,” he said.
Obama said he plans to double the budget of key science agencies over a decade, including the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology.
He also announced the launch of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. It is a new Department of Energy organization modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, that led in development of the Internet, stealth aircraft and other technological breakthroughs.
And he said the Energy Department and the National Science Foundation will offer programs and scholarships to encourage American students to pursue careers in science, engineering and business related to clean energy.