During his speech at the annual meeting of National Academy of Sciences, President Barak Obama has pledged to invest 3% of the US gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development (R&D), raising the current figure an increment of 0.4%. To most scientists, particularly academic, relying mostly on government collected tax-payers money, that’s terrific news. Nevertheless, 13 years ago, Terence Kealey-professor of biochemistry and author of “The Economic Laws of Scientific Research”, stated that “The funding of science is not a political decision; it is economically determined”(1). For example, investing money into education and science for more than 50 years ago by US governments paid off when Apollo 11 space flight landed the first humans on the moon.
Today, the US encounters a new challenge that "Our students are outperformed in math and science by their peers in Singapore, Japan, England, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Korea, among others” said Obama. Currently, the US is leading the world R&D with 36 percent of projected world R&D performance in 2007. However, the Asian-nations R&D performance has dramatically increased over the last decade powered mainly by “industrial science”. This was exemplified by Kealey when he mentioned in his article Hiroyuki Odagiri and Naoki Murakimi study on some Japanese pharmaceutical companies that collected $13 billion sales in 1981, with an annual return of 19 percent on investment in R&D. What are our expectations 10 years from today? If boosting science and mathematics education by extra government funding of a $5 billion program called “Race to the Top”, did not fulfill its goal. Our students are still lagging behind and if the US-industrial science is outweighed by high-tech Asian nations. To help figuring it out: China, Japan, and South Korea combined R&D investment, three years ago, accounted for 27 percent of world R&D, more than the 27 nations of the European Union according to Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development Index in 2007 (2).
Badr M. Ibrahim
Pharmacology and Toxicology Ph.D. Candidate,
East Carolina University
- End Government Science Funding, by Terence Kealey. Cato Institute, www.cato.com
- Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development Index.