Obama: meer geld dan tijdens Apollo

Nieuws | de redactie
27 april 2009 | "There are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science, that support for research is somehow a luxury at moments defined by necessities. I fundamentally disagree. Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been before," zei de president op dag 99 van zijn bewind.

Barack Obama werd als een 'rockstar' ontvangen door ruim 1000 leden van de wetenschapsacademie van de USA. Hij kondigde zijn toekomstbeleid aan: R&D moet van 2,7 naar 3% van het BNP. Dat is $60 miljard meer dan nu en hoger dan zelfs tijdens het Apolloprogramma. En Obama wees er op dat Nederlandse studenten beter zijn in Bèta-Tech dan hun Amerikaanse collega's!

In his first remarks on the health emergency [de varkensgriep in Mexico en daarbuiten] he urged everyone to remain calm and assured the nation that his administration was on top of the crisis.

Meer geld dan tijdens Apollo
The biggest announcement was a goal that’s as ambiguous as it is ambitious: a call for the United States to spend more than 3% or more of its gross domestic product on research and development. In 2007 the United States spent about $368 billion on R&D, which is about 2.7% of GDP. That means the United States would have to spend roughly $60 billion more per year on research and development to reach Obama’s goal, assuming the US economy doesn’t grow—and boost the denominator. It remains to be seen how the federal government might effectively encourage businesses to do more research. “It’s going to be hard to reach because the government represents only one-third of the spending on R&D,” said Albert Teich, director of science and policy programs at AAAS, which publishes this blog.

“I won’t say whether we’re going to be able to reach it by anytime within the foreseeable future,” Obama said. The highest fraction that the United States has achieved is 2.88%. It was in 1964 at the height of the Apollo program, a level of excitement that Obama repeatedly said he wanted to emulate now. “We can do this,” he repeatedly said. Obama didn’t mention a timeframe for the goal.

Meer bèta-tech studenten
His promise to restore scientific integrity to government—”Under my Administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over”—got the longest and loudest applause, though there were no standing ovations and Obama didn’t announce anything new in these areas. He pledged support for a variety of science and math education initiatives.

One already in the 2010 budget request from the Department of Education would allow states to include math and science in their proposals for a share of a $5 billion programme to foster innovative programs. A new joint initiative by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, dubbed RE-ENERGYSE, is intended to inspire “tens of thousands of American students to pursue careers in science, engineering and entrepreneurship related to clean energy.”

In addition, he urged NAS members to “think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, like science festivals, robotics competitions, and fairs that encourage young people to create, build, and invent — to be makers of things, not just consumers of things. Our students are outperformed in math and science by their peers in Singapore, Japan, England, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Korea, among others.”

Energie en nieuwe toppers naar het Witte Huis
As expected, he announced that as part of the 2010 budget he would fund Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, which supports risky research and energy, though he didn’t say how much he was requesting. He repeated a campaign promise to continue a doubling of the budgets of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation and to double spending on cancer research at the National Institutes of Health.

In what amounts to legitimate but unsurprising news, Obama announced the appointment of the rest of the members of the President’s Council Of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), chaired by Holdren, Harold Varmus, and Eric Lander. The list of distinguished scientists range from climate specialists such as Nobelist Mario Molina, Rosina Bierbaum, and Daniel Schrag to hedge fund tycoon and computer scientist David Shaw and Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

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