The editors at Scientific American exhort the US Congress to continue to fund basic science by re-authorizing the America COMPETES Act.
The America COMPETES Act sets up funding goals for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. While President George W. Bush signed it into law 2007, the act was never fully funded and what funding it had has expired, Scientific American says.
In an editorial, they argue that investment into fundamental research drives innovation as well as the economy. But when spending budgets are tight, there is an impulse to funnel funds toward applied research that may have a more immediate impact. This, the editors say, is shortsighted.
One estimate says that the $3.8 billion federal investment into the Human Genome Project added $796 billion to the economy, the Scientific American editors note. And economists have calculated that between a third and half of economic growth in the US since World War II can be attributed to basic research.
"This is why recent spending trends are worrying," Scientific American says, and argues that Congress should re-authorize the America COMPETES Act to reverse them.