By Sean Pool
October 17, 2012
The Center for American Progress Action Fund today received an open letter
co-signed by 68 Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry, and medicine.
The letter strongly endorses President Barack Obama’s science policies.
“America’s economic future,” the letter begins, “depends on our ability
to continue America’s proud legacy of discovery and invention.”
In the letter the Nobel Prize-winning scientists contrast President
Obama’s programs to train young Americans in science and technology,
strengthen science-based decisionmaking in government, and increase
investments in science and innovation, with Republican presidential
candidate Mitt Romney’s budget proposal, which would slash these
investments. Indeed, according to the American Association for the
Advancement of Science, Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget plan, which Gov.
Romney endorsed, would invest fully one-quarter less in nondefense
research and development compared to the president’s plan.
“The Nobelists’ commitment to a prosperous future built on innovation
is in the finest spirit of the Founding Fathers and expresses a core
American value,” said Jonathan D. Moreno, Editor-in-Chief of Science
Progress Action and Senior Fellow at CAP Action. “In this time of
economic recovery, we must keep our eye on the horizon by investing in
the science, technology, education, and workforce we need to stay on the
cutting edge and compete in a world economy where success is
increasingly determined by our ability to out-invent and out-innovate
our competitor nations.
Spanning several generations, the Nobelists are themselves fine
examples of how public investments in science lead to a substantial
return on our nation’s investment. James Watson, who won the Nobel Prize
in 1962 at age 34 for his work on the way DNA and RNA work together to
create proteins, is now 84, and Charles Townes, inventor of the
precursor to the laser and winner of the prize in 1964, is now 97. Among
the most recent winners of the prize is Robert Lefkowitz, who won the
prize earlier this month for revealing the inner workings of an
important family of receptors that govern how cells in the body
communicate with one another.
These are America’s most accomplished scientists, and their
discoveries have led to real progress. Without James Watson’s discovery
of the structure and function of DNA and RNA, we would not have a
biotechnology industry that contributes nearly $1 trillion annually to
the U.S. economy. And Charles Townes’s discovery of the maser, which
later led to the laser, has touched nearly every industry and countless
everyday products, from DVDs to LASIK eye surgery to precision
At CAP Action we believe public investments in science and technology
are the bedrock of our nation’s economy and key to future prosperity.
Indeed, another Nobel laureate, Robert Solow, won the prize in economics
in 1987 for showing that more than half of the wealth our nation has
created since World War II stems directly from technological innovation.
The iPhone 5 alone, which itself contains countless inventions that
arose from federally funded research, is predicted to add between
one-quarter and one-half of a percentage point to our nation’s gross
domestic product this year, according to the chief U.S. economist at
“As a nation we must continue the investments that revolutionized
agriculture, invented the Internet, gave us modern medicine, and enabled
a strong national defense. Abandoning this tradition would be a
devastating step backwards,” the 68 Nobel laureates conclude.
But the evidence shows that the public’s investments in science and
technology pay off. If we’re serious about creating jobs and growing the
economy for the long term, then Gov. Romney and his allies in Congress
have it backward: It’s not that we can’t afford to increase our
investments in science. It’s that we can’t afford not to.
Read the full letter here.
Sean Pool is a policy analyst for science and innovation policy
at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and managing editor of
Science Progress Action.
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