In an insightful and savvyViewpoint columnwritten for ENR, Dr. Ed Link, a distinguished research scientist and former winner of ENR's Award of Excellence, warns of a “quiet, insidious crisis” as the American political system shortchanges our economic future by cutting federal funds for academic research and development.
Yes, industry has stepped up with R&D money of its own. Link writes: “But industry's investments tend to focus on development of near term opportunities that will provide market advantage and return on investment. Industry invests very little in long-term basic research, which is the root of major new opportunities.”
Right now the decline in federal research funding can be seen in fewer graduate students as well as a reduction in faculty positions, as many U.S. born students leave academia and forego graduate degrees for the greater security of industry. What will that mean down the line? Short-term savings hasn’t worked so well for us when aging infrastructure needed long-term attention and our basic research infrastructure is no different.
Instead of my taking up your time here recounting what Dr. Link has said so much better, I urge you to read his thoughts in “Eating Our Seed Corn: R&D Funding Cuts Are Killing Our Economic Engine.”
Dr. Link is the former director of research and development at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and senior research engineer at the Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Maryland.