Congressional R&D Caucus co-chairs join scientists, engineers and graduate students

March 04, 2008

A group of prominent scientists and engineers, joined by Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Judy Biggert (R-IL), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Research and Development Caucus, spoke out today about the need for more federal funding for scientific research.

The scientists, engineers and students were among more than 250 who participated in an annual "Congressional Visits Day," sponsored by the Science-Engineering-Technology (SET) Working Group.

"We have come in mass this week from around the country to carry a single message to Capitol Hill: research is an investment, not an expense," said Dr. Russell Lefevre, adjunct professor of physics and electrical engineering at the University of North Dakota and President of IEEE-USA. "Federally funded research secures the nation's future. This year more than ever we need to make our voices heard to ensure that the under-funding of key science agencies ends."

The group was joined by the Co-Chairs of the Congressional R&D Caucus, Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Judy Biggert (R-IL), both of whom share a strong commitment to science and technology research and education. Rep. Holt is one of the few scientists in Congress and the former assistant director of the largest research facility at Princeton University. Among his many achievements in Congress is helping to secure more than $700 million in new federal funding for science and technology research. "We owe our current economic strength, national security, and quality of life to investments of past generations to education and research and development," Holt said. "However, the federal government has not been living up to our responsibility to continue this investment and robustly fund education, research and development, and innovation. Federal investment in these areas ensures that the American people will continue to benefit from the opportunities of a rapidly growing economy. Federal investment will also spur investment from the private sector."

As a member of the Committee on Science and Technology and former Chair of the Energy Subcommittee, Rep. Biggert has worked to strengthen America's scientific facilities, improve research in the basic physical sciences, and has championed funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science. She also has been a tireless advocate for increasing federal support for the training of math and science teachers. "Our national labs are doing critical research in areas like biotechnology, nanotechnology, material and chemical sciences, and supercomputing," said Biggert. "Their work is critical to American competitiveness over the next century. That's why we must stop the 'brain drain' and put America back in the lead when it comes to research and development."

"We thank Reps. Holt and Biggert for their exemplary leadership. It is clear that they share our passion for science and our belief that sustained, strong federal funding for science and technology research and education is essential to our future as a nation," Lefevre said.

The SET Working Group speakers each emphasized the critical need for Congress and the country to rally to ensure that downward trends in science funding stop now. Federally-supported research drives innovation, supports the economy, improves our quality of life and makes America competitive globally. Yet, key science agencies continue to be underfunded including NASA, the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, NIH and the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

"Decreased emphasis on federal funding of biomedical research not only affects the scientific researchers of today but the next generation of scientists and, ultimately, the patients of tomorrow," said Danielle Evers, a member of the Society for Neuroscience and a doctoral student in neuroscience at Georgetown University.

Other participants in the press conference included: "Solutions to many of our greatest concerns - concerns about healthcare, about national security, about climate change, to name a few - are awaiting discovery in research laboratories around the country," said Lefevre. "But if we upend our country's 50-year tradition of federal support for research, those solutions will remain undiscovered."
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The Science, Engineering and Technology Work Group is comprised of more than 30 organizations representing a broad cross section of science and technology in academia, government and private industry. For more information, visit www.setcvd.org.

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