Top U.S. business leaders push for federal funding for basic scientific research

Friday, September 30, 2016

As a result of a retreat convened at Sunnylands, more than three dozen CEOs and other top executives of leading U.S. businesses are making the case for federal funding of basic scientific research as an investment in Americans’ prosperity, security and quality of life.

“Business leaders agree: Federal funding of basic scientific research is an investment in our prosperity, security and well-being,” the group wrote in full-page ads that ran in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal in late September.

Carol Folt, chancellor of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and James Green, director of NASA, planetary science division.

Without basic research, the leaders said, the United States would be without some essential technologies that connect, protect, and power the world. There would be no internet, smartphones, hepatitis B vaccine, solar panels, microprocessors or Global Positioning System (GPS).

The signatories include Wanda Austin, president and CEO, Aerospace Corporation; Eric Schmidt, executive chairman, Alphabet, and former CEO of Google; Charles Munger, vice chairman, Berkshire Hathaway Corporation; John Watson, CEO, Chevron; Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO, CVS Health; Mary T. Barra, chairman and CEO, General Motors; Meg Whitman, president and CEO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise; Norm Augustine, former CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation; Steve Mollenkopf, CEO, Qualcomm Incorporated; Thomas J. Falk, chairman and CEO, Kimberly-Clark; William S. Demchak, chairman, president and CEO, PNC Financial Services Group; and Roger Ferguson, president and CEO, TIAA.

The initiative emerged from a February 2016 meeting at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif., that was convened by Robert Bradway, CEO of Amgen, and Subra Suresh, president of Carnegie Mellon University and former director of the National Science Foundation. It was organized by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, program director of Sunnylands and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The ads are sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s program in the Science of Science Communication.

The participants at the retreat voiced concern that the importance of federal funding for basic scientific research not be lost in broader debates about budget priorities.
“The ecosystem for innovation in the U.S., which pairs academic research with private industry investment, is unrivaled anywhere in the world,” noted Bradway. “Government funding of research is a critical component, and one which we must sustain if we are to preserve our role as the global leader in innovation.”

“Support of basic research, primarily funded by the federal government with a significant boost from the private sector, has played a pivotal role in the emergence of the United States as the undisputed innovation leader since the end of World War II,” Suresh said. “This support has served as an engine of economic prosperity and national security, leading to world-changing technologies, tens of millions of high-quality jobs, Nobel Prize-winning discoveries, and the creation of American companies with a global footprint.”

Jamieson added, “Without basic research, many of us would literally be lost: We would not have smartphones, the internet and GPS.”