WASHINGTON A federal advisory panel will recommend next week that the Bush administration double federal funding over the next several years to support basic research in the physical sciences and engineering, including electrical engineering.
The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (Pcast) met Thursday (Aug. 29) to hammer out recommendations for the proposed increase in government support for basic research. The group warned in a draft letter to President Bush that federal R&D funding as a percentage of gross domestic production has been declining steadily over the last decade.
The United States is expected to spend nearly $100 billion on science and technology R&D this year in an attempt to reverse the trend. However, a growing percentage of federal funding is going to military research.
Private sector research funding has increased in the United States over the last 15 years, but Pcast members stressed that it has focused on short-term product development and was subject to the vagaries of the business cycle.
A study of research funding trends conducted for Pcast by Rand Corp. and the American Association for the Advancement of Science concluded that funding shortfalls for the physical sciences and engineering "hurts all science disciplines."
"The physical sciences have been left behind," said Pcast member Gordon Moore, chairman emeritus of Intel Corp.
The advisory panel is recommending increased funding to be earmarked for physical sciences and engineering beginning in fiscal 2004, with a goal of achieving "parity" with other scientific disciplines funded by other government agencies by 2005 or 2006. The funds would be used "strictly for basic and applied research, not R&D," a Pcast member said.
The House Science Committee has been pressing the Bush administration to double funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF). That proposal came in response to an administration plan to boost funding for the National Institutes of Health, which sponsors biotechnology research.
Pcast members said those funding increases would do little to help promote science and engineering research. Congressional plans to double NSF funding in two years "won't solve all these problems were talking about," said G. Wayne Clough, president of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Clough steered the research report and recommendations through the advisory panel.
Along with Moore, several electronics industry executives are members of the advisory panel, including: George Scalise; president of the Semiconductor Industry Association; Robert Herbold, executive vice president of Microsoft Corp.; and Michael Dell, chairman and chief executive officer of Dell Computer Corp.
The panel's recommendations singled out electrical engineering as one of four major engineering fields that should receive greater federal support. One reason for the increase, Pcast members said, was that U.S. economic rivals are spending more research funds to improve engineering R&D.
Clough said the group expects to send its report and recommendations to President Bush next week.