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The importance of research funding

EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON | 2/2/2015, 3:34 a.m.
Recently, a group of scientists announced the discovery of a new powerful antibiotic that they say has the potential to ...
eddie bernice johnson

Recently, a group of scientists announced the discovery of a new powerful antibiotic that they say has the potential to reduce deaths from dangerous infections.

An estimated 75,000 people die each year from hospital-acquired infections, but new antibiotics are rarely introduced because it is simply not profitable for the private sector to do basic research and development work. The type of public health breakthrough announced by the scientists can only occur when the federal government supports scientific research.

As the ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, I have been fortunate over the years to meet with a wide range of individuals in academia, industry and government. A common area of agreement among them is that federal investment in fundamental research leads to new discoveries, technologies and products.

One has only to look at information technology companies such as Texas Instruments, Apple and Google, among others, to understand the path from fundamental research to economic growth and job creation.

One of the most important pieces of legislation to move through Congress in recent years, the America COMPETES Act, was based on recommendations from a 2005 National Academies’ report raising the alarm that our scientific and technological building blocks were eroding at a time when our global competitors were gaining strength.

The America COMPETES Act of 2007 (reauthorized in 2010) included significant increases in the research budgets of our core science agencies to ensure that our nation remained the world’s scientific and technical global leader, and to strengthen American competitiveness through sustained investments in science, innovation and science education.

In a federal address in 1988, President Reagan said, “… although basic research does not begin with a particular practical goal, when you look at the results over the years, it ends up being one of the most practical things government does … It is an indispensable investment in America’s future.” I agree with the late president. Federal support for scientific research should not be a partisan matter, rather an American matter.

Unfortunately, our nation’s competitiveness continues to be compromised by cuts to our research and development funding through efforts in Washington to starve our federal budget. As I often tell my colleagues, we are eating our seed corn.

I will do everything in my power to continue the work to reaffirm America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation. Our national security, way of life and future prosperity are inextricably intertwined with our commitment to keeping research and development among our nation’s top priorities.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson is the ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and the highest-ranking Texan on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. She represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas, which includes Downtown Dallas, Fair Park, Kessler Park, Old East Dallas, Pleasant Grove, South Dallas & South Oak Cliff, all of Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Duncanville, Hutchins, Lancaster & Wilmer and parts of Ferris, Glenn Heights, South Grand Prairie, Oak Lawn, Ovilla, Uptown/Victory Park and West Dallas.