A new report from scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that a major decline in federal science spending is resulting in the real possibility of an "innovation deficit."
2014 saw a number of major scientific achievements: the European Space Agency landed a spacecraft on a comet; Chinese scientists developed the world's fastest supercomputer. Meanwhile, in the U.S., science funding is "the lowest it has been since the Second World War as a fraction of the federal budget," said Marc Kastner, the MIT physicist that led the research team. "This really threatens America's future."
The report warns that the lack of adequate funding for sciences in the U.S. is threatening 15 fields, including neurobiology, cybersecurity, infectious diseases and robotics.
Reuters' Sharon Begley reports:
Cuts mandated by the White House's and Congress's failure to reach agreement on reducing the federal deficit have chipped away at the budgets of the National Institutes of Health and other science agencies; legislation on research spending is tied up in debates over, among other things, climate change.
Federal spending on research as a share of total government outlays has fallen from nearly 10 percent in 1968, during the space program, to 3 percent in 2015. As a share of gross domestic product, it has dropped from 0.6 percent in 1976 to just under 0.4 percent.
"Although the benefit of any particular scientific endeavor is unpredictable, there is no doubt that investing in basic research has always paid off over time," said Kastner on Monday. "Economists tell us that past investments in research and development account for a large fraction of our current GDP, and even if the future payoffs are not as large, there is no doubt that we will suffer if we do not keep up with those nations that are now making bigger investments than we are."