WASHINGTON-US spending on research and development has fallen
over the last 20 years from 3% to 2.6% of the Gross Domestic Product,
and the United States now ranks behind Japan and Germany in R&D
spending, according to a study released by the Institute for the
Future, a California-based think tank sponsored by 23 research-oriented
The report, entitled the Future of America's Research-Intensive
Industries, stressed that both the government and private industry
must increase funding for basic R&D if the United States is
to retain its standard of living and global competitiveness.
It urges the development of a new system of support for R&D,
"built not on the fear that drove Cold War R&D policies,
but on the premise that R&D provides the best hope for improving
the quality of life for all our citizens."
At a press conference on Capital Hill announcing the release of
the report, J. Ian Morrison, PhD, president of the Institute for
the Future, outlined five steps the country needs to take to increase
R&D efforts (see table ).
Mary L. Good, PhD, under secretary for technology, Department
of Commerce, said that "proposed congressional cuts would
eliminate at least 35,000 scientists and engineers from R&D,
closing university and private sector labs and research facilities
across the country."
Dr. Good warned that if we "dissolve teams of scientists
and engineers, discourage the best and brightest from pursuing
technical careers, and close our world class facilities, we may
never be able to rebuild our capabilities."
She added that the US currently ranks 28th in the percentage of
public R&D funding dedicated to civilian research, just ahead
of the Czech Republic.
Richard J. Kogan, president and chief operating officer of Schering-Plough
Corporation, said that past R&D has made the United States
a worldwide technological leader in medicine. He pointed out that
"it took 14 years of R&D before my company made a penny
on recombinant alpha interferon, which is now used to treat 16
oncologic and viral diseases."
The pharmaceutical industry is currently responsible for more
than 90% of all new US drug discoveries, he said. "The burning
issue now is not only whether the industry can continue bringing
new products to patients to treat unconquered diseases, but also
whether we can continue covering the expenditure for leading-edge
The annual medical costs of only seven major uncurable diseases
account for about half of today's health-care bill, he said. However,
many of those diseases are within reach of effective pharmaceutical
control or cure. "Medical innovation is the best long-term
solution for providing cost-effective quality care."
Meeting the Population Crisis
Leon Lederman, PhD, Nobel Laureate Physicist, and director emeritus,
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Batvia, Ill, said that
R&D is needed to face the crisis in population growth in the
next 50 years and the subsequent need for energy and food to support
that growth without destroying the environment.
Dr. Lederman emphasized that the flow of young people into the
sciences is crucial for R&D, and yet that flow has dropped
off recently as the news of downsizing in the science industries
reaches students in the universities.
He believes that we need to encourage more of our young people
to pursue graduate degrees and commented that "if it were
not for foreign students, our graduate schools would be half empty."
From a presentation by J. Ian Morrison, president, Institute
for the Future, Menlo Park, Calif.