The National Intelligence Council reports that in 2003 “foreigners contributed 37 percent of the research papers in Science, 55 percent in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and 71 percent in the journals of the American Physical Society.”
For the first time, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator does not reside in the United States; this virtually ensures that the next round of breakthroughs in this fundamental discipline will originate abroad.
In the recent ranking by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States is in 22nd place in the fraction of GDP devoted to nondefense research.
Federal annual investment in research in the physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering combined is equal to the increase in US health care costs experienced every 6 weeks.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has indicated that it can now fund only one in five research proposals that it receives, the vast majority of which are deemed meritorious by peer reviewers. As funds have become more scarce, peer reviewers have been less inclined to allocate grants to younger researchers as opposed to more senior researchers with “safe” track records, even though history shows convincingly that the most significant scientific advances have been attributable disproportionately to younger researchers pursuing cutting-edge, high-risk science. The median age for first grants to individual researchers by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recently reached 42 years, and it should not go unnoticed that even greater risk aversion has evolved among many of those who fund research on behalf of US industry.
In contrast with the deteriorating situation in the physical sciences and engineering, America has in recent years made a substantial investment in the biologic sciences, doubling the federal budget for health-related research at NIH over a 5-year period. The impact of the increase in investment in understanding the causes and cures of diseases has been remarkable. However, this gain was eroded as inflation ate away at flat or even declining budgets in the years that followed the buildup—a trend that was reversed once again in the current year’s federal budget. It is, of course, of the utmost importance that increases in the funding of the physical sciences are not accomplished at the expense of investment in the biologic sciences. It is noteworthy in this regard that advances in the biologic sciences, the physical sciences, and engineering have often been highly interdependent, and they are increasingly so. For example, it is said that the human genome could