Sunday, February 19, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Shannon Stewart, Center for Biomedical Innovation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
Every five years, UNESCO undertakes a global review of science policy. Presented herein is a review of science policy in the United States from 2010-2015, including federal, industrial and academic policy. For the study, we collected information on government, industrial and foundation funding. We reviewed policy statements, international agreements, and personnel decisions. We also consulted measures of trade in goods and intellectual property. We found that, while federal investments in R&D have flat lined, industry has committed more to R&D, so the total investment has remained near 2.75% of GDP, with the balance slowly shifting such that federal grants pay for a larger share of research and industry pays for a larger share of development. The US has pursued a greater number of public-private partnerships in priority areas, including climate change and medical research. Obama administration initiatives include investments in precision medicine and advanced manufacturing. Also, major international agreements have been signed with Iran and China in the past five years that aim to limit nuclear proliferation and climate change, respectively. Human spaceflight has taken a back seat to robotic exploration of the solar system. Business generally maintained or increased its R&D activity during this period, with the brunt of the recession affecting startups and small businesses. Patent activity suggests that they are conducting the bulk of R&D in the US, but on the other hand, trade data suggests that high-tech products are increasingly made overseas. The recession and sequestration have squeezed academic research, resulting in a glut of postdoctoral researchers, as fewer faculty positions have come available. Over all, the US is losing the academic R&D supremacy it enjoyed in past decades as other nations, particularly China, make major investments. What does the future look like for US science? Indications are that opportunities in federally funded basic research are likely to stagnate. Conversely, the future looks bright for innovation and development in the business enterprise sector.