Speech focuses on role of science

Monday, November 1, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:26 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

About 50 people showed up at MU’s physics building Thursday to hear a spin on the Bush administration’s science and technology policy.

Mary Good, former undersecretary of technology administration during the Clinton administration, made the case that Americans need to take a good look at the role science plays in the nation — regardless of who wins the presidency Tuesday.

Good, now the Donaghey University Professor at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, said she has spent almost $50,000 on Democratic candidates for federal offices in this election, including several from Missouri.

She said she thought the science community has been so well funded that researchers have become accustomed to lobbying only for their own disciplines.

“The science community is its own biggest enemy,” Good said.

In rapid succession, Good presented slides that showed the decline of research dollars as a percentage of the gross domestic product, decline of natural science and engineering degrees attained, as well as an increase in patents and published research by foreign researchers compared to American ones.

The trends she pointed to are common for the entire Western Hemisphere for more than 20 years. Good also said these trends cannot be attributed to any one administration.

Good said the research- and development-based innovation has fueled economic growth essential to conquering recessions in the early 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

Good said two-thirds of the research funding in the United States comes from the federal government, and she said that most U.S. research funding is directed toward applied science rather than basic science — for example, looking for a cure vs. studying biology.

Good said this would threaten American ability to use continual invention as a competitive tool.

She said she was also concerned that the rising deficit would limit the amount of discretionary spending for the federal government to the extent that research and development appropriations would be limited further.

Good said the concerns were independent of which candidate wins the presidency on Tuesday, and she called for a three-point program that the science community would have to adopt. The list included civic advocacy of science, appointing scientists with science credentials to several key positions in the federal government and increased recruitment of Americans to national science and engineering programs.

She pointed out how important it was for the science community to get involved in the political process of policy-making and fund allocation.

“It is public money, and it will be controlled by politics,” she said.

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