Nevertheless, this motivation—enlarging the store of human knowledge—in the end brings advances and applications that cannot be made any other way. A substantial redirection of such fundamental research toward goal-directed work would reduce the potential for advances of economic and social importance without necessarily leading to solutions for the problems being addressed.1
A third observation concerns the cultural significance of science. The application of modern scientific research, beginning in the seventeenth century, is one of the most profound events in human history. Modern research has done more than change the material circumstances of our lives. It has changed our ideas about ourselves and our place in the universe, about human history and the human future.
A final observation has to do with leadership. The great modern expansion of scientific knowledge has led to changes that have been of enormous benefit to humanity. Adjusting to these changes has in some cases proved disruptive to society. Nonetheless, leadership in science has become one of the defining characteristics of great nations. The United States has risen to a position of global prominence in part through its strengths in science and technology. Those strengths can continue to contribute greatly to U.S. leadership.2
In light of the above observations, we believe that the federal government, in partnership with the private sector and with other levels of government, should adopt explicit national goals for science. Our first recommendation is:
The United States should be among the world leaders in all major areas of science.
“Major areas” refers to broad disciplines of science (such as biology, physics, mathematics, chemistry, earth science, and astronomy) and to their major subdisciplines (such as the neurosciences, condensed-matter physics, and seismology). “Among the world leaders” means that the United States should have capabili-