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What should be the research goals of nation? How should research institutions adapt to the post-Cold War world? Would the creation of a quasi-independent agency further the nation's R&D goals? In this age of budget cutting, how should scientists and engineers justify R&D funding? What is the relationship between basic and "targeted" research? Is R&D tied to the economic health of the nation? Viewer comments
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Dr. Richard Nicholson, executive director of AAAS and a participant in this forum, provides his general assessment of the current of American R&D.
Viewer comments on R&D
Dave Mitchell of Fresno, CA:
Government research should focus on topics that are not of short term economic value. Research of short term value should be funded by the private sector. Most companies cannot afford to invest in basic research, but without the basic research American industry will be less competitive in the long run. Research should concentrate less on military hardware and more on environmental technology.
Gary Coldren of West Chester, PA:
I feel that the investment we make in the space program, especially in the area of manned space flight, will in the long run bring enormous economic benefits to our society. Perhaps not in my lifetime, but future generations will certainly reap the benefits of the investment we make now. To spend our money wisely we must take a long term view.
Paul Beeken of White Plains, NY:
Basic research is a hard if not impossible to justify on economic considerations. There are numerous examples of basic studies having been tabled or the subject of academic inquiry for years before a "pragmatic contribution" to society was realized. There should always be some money available for abstract investigation or there will never be the framework for new developmental work. The trouble comes when we try to decide what this level should be.
Uwe Beffert of Montreal, Quebec:
It is good to be reading about the shift in American policy towards R&D spending. The politicians and decision-makers have clearly got the message that good research leads to a strong economy, with countless benefits and profits down the road. As a Canadian, I only wish my government would get the same message. Kudos to you.
Nelson Chandler of College Station, TX:
Personally, I believe the U.S. government should put its emphasis on basic research, and let industry concentrate on "targeted" research, with the exception that defense and the space exploration program should be targeted by the government.
The rewards for basic research are usually a little too far away for industry to risk much capital on (although some companies are visionary enough to do this). I don't think political bodies can fund "targeted" research in general without showing favoritism to or appear to be subsidizing certain industries (that happen to be in the right district). Industry is best suited for funding "targeted& research because they know what they want, and they will reap the rewards, which are not as far off as the rewards from basic research.