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Basic research generates jobs and competitiveness
What is the value of basic research in
these tough economic times?
In her memoirs, former British prime
minister Maggie Thatcher relates a
story about a meeting between the
formidable prime minister and statesman William Gladstone and the scientist Michael Faraday. When asked
by Gladstone whether his research
in electricity had any value, Faraday
promptly replied: “Sir, one day you will
tax it.” How right he was. Our globe is
now wired in ways Faraday could not
have envisioned, giving us first heat and
light, then power to fuel new industries
and now the ability to communicate
at the speed of light around the globe.
The economic benefits flowing from
Faraday’s early experiments continue
to provide returns. We now have an
emerging industry based entirely on the
smart grid; one estimate projects it will
reach $34 billion worldwide by 2020.
Why should kids be
inspired to go into science
and technical fields?
Science and engineering
are a ticket to prosperity.
Look at rapidly growing
economies like India and
China. The middle class in
India, in the last 17 years
since India opened up
economically, have moved
up significantly — that’s
350 million people, most
through the IT industry.
Take a place like MIT;
most of the students come
from middle-class backgrounds. Those are two
Science and engineering are also a way to
address complex societal
problems: water, energy, environment, transportation, you name it.
The young generation, because of the
Internet and other media, are not only
interested in producing the next gadget or the next product — they are also
very interested in changing the world.
Science and engineering are a vehicle
to do that.
Is the United States losing its
Other nations are investing heavily in
science and engineering. The U. S. is not
the world leader in terms of gross R&D
expenditures relative to GDP.… U. S.
students are not performing at the top
How are science and engineering jobs
The number of scientists and engi-
neers working for U.S. small busi-
nesses now nearly equals those
working for large businesses, includ-
ing the giants of American industry
and technology. In fact, small busi-