Carnegie Mellon University
October 14, 2016

Subra Suresh Co-Authors Op-Ed for Science Magazine


Carnegie Mellon University President and EPP Professor Subra Suresh wrote a piece in Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), discussing the critical role of the government in research. 

"Long-term basic research, substantially funded by the U.S. government, underlies some of industry's most profitable innovations. Global positioning system technology, now a staple in every mobile phone, emerged from Cold War Defense Department research and decades of National Science Foundation explorations. As well, long-term public–private partnerships in basic research have driven U.S. leadership, from information technology to drug development and medical advancement. For example, the Human Genome Project combined $14.5 billion in federal investment with a private-sector initiative, generating nearly $1 trillion in jobs, personal wealth for entrepreneurs, and taxes by 2013. Such endeavors created a science ecosystem that in turn generated the talent pipeline upon which it depended.

Although for-profit corporations still invest in proprietary product development and expensive clinical trials, industry finds itself unable to invest in basic research the way it once did. The need for increased corporate secrecy, market force–driven short-term decision-making, and narrowing windows to monetize new technologies have whittled away industry's willingness and ability to conduct basic research. This change threatens U.S. preeminence in research. For instance, the nation may lose its ability to attract and retain the finest talent from around the world. A good fraction of the students who earn advanced degrees in science and technology in the United States come from abroad because of the nation's scientific excellence. For decades, American companies could attract and retain the finest talent from around the world. But if the U.S. loses its edge in research, it may also lose this vital resource of expertise and innovation."

Read the full letter in the journal Science.