Computerworld posts an interesting forum today in which some top science and technology luminaries send an open letter to the next president on how to address what the website calls "the country's ongoing decline in global technological competitiveness." Barack Obama has called the Bush years "one of the most anti-science administrtations in American history."
Obama has promised to double federal funding of basic research over 10 years, to appoint a chief technology officer, and to make the R&D tax credit for corporations permanent. McCain has said less, and wants to help the private sector through more capital formation, low taxes, streamlined regulations, and other incentives.Two Northwest figures take part in the forum. One is Ed Lazowska, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington, who chimes in about the problem:
The current administration has stacked scientific advisory boards, suppressed research that conflicts with its political agenda, prevented government scientists from speaking openly with the public and the media, failed to utilize the best available evidence to guide policy, and generally denigrated science, evidence and objectivity.
Lazowska advocates doubling over the next ten years the federal investment in fundamental research by key science agencies, and a national commitment to science education at all levels. He then urges using technology and research to address what he calls the "grand challenges" of the 21st century:
Achieving energy independence; addressing climate change; feeding the people of America and the world; enhancing national security; further improving human health, life expectancy and quality of life; restoring and improving our urban infrastructure; protecting our environment. Each is critical; none is optional. Each requires major new advances in science and technology.
The other local expert is Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research, who takes aim at the increasing use of noncompetitive earmarked funding for science, which tends to favor short-term pet projects as opposed to long-term and risk-taking research.