Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Scientific research needs our continued support and cooperation

By Neal Lane - posted Wednesday, 15 November 2000

In my country, President Clinton and Vice President Gore know that science and technology will enable our nation to compete aggressively in the global marketplace, protect our environment, and improve the health and wellbeing of our people. Even as they have brought the budget into balance, turning the deficits into surpluses, they have increased the investment in science and technology. All of us, but especially our children and our grandchildren, will reap the rewards of that wise decision!

So much of what we have already been able to accomplish and enjoy today has resulted from R&D investments we made decades ago. I would like to illustrate that assertion with three main points.

First, far-sighted investments in research and development during the past half century have enriched our lives and strengthened Science and Technology (S&T) and our economy in unforeseen ways. So we see continued investment as the "wellspring of prosperity" in the 21st century.


Second, successful R&D requires investments in people. The need for a strong S&T workforce calls for investing in education and training for all levels of workers in an increasingly high-tech world, and for encouraging a greater diversity of students to pursue careers in science and engineering.

Third, close cooperation with our international partners is crucial to the success of our S&T ventures. Scientific breakthroughs occur without regard for national borders.

Research Pays Economic Dividends

The first thing to say about how R&D impacts our economy is that experience has taught us to expect the unexpected. For the most part, of the contributions of science and technology could not have been foreseen, when the research was being done, and would not have been available without vigilance and patience in R&D funding.

Only by supporting research, particularly basic research, where the returns are not guaranteed, can we ensure the steady progress that underpins the breakthroughs and front-page news stories that accompany each new success. Top economists have concluded that over the past 50 years technological innovation has been responsible for as much as half of my nation's growth in productivity. Taking a risk on open-ended research, whose cost-effectiveness can be difficult, even impossible to guarantee, often generates the greatest economic returns. I’d like to talk about three examples:

  • Information Technology;
  • The Global Positioning System; and
  • Biomedicine.

First, Information Technology.

Americans are now so accustomed to computers in our daily lives that we are amazed to discover that early computer experts did not foresee much demand for these specialized machines. For example, the chairman of IBM, Thomas Watson, stated in the 1940s, "There is a world market for maybe five computers." Since then, the U. S. Government has been a major force in launching and nurturing the computer age in my country. Federal dollars have funded about 70 per cent of university research in computer science and electrical engineering since 1976. The Federal funding in basic research has directly contributed not only to development of computer manufacturing and hardware, but also to advances in computer graphics, artificial intelligence, computer architecture, and of course, the Internet.

The Internet emerged from the joint effort by Federal agencies and universities to advance networking technology primarily as a research tool. Starting in 1969, the Department of Defense opened its experimental nation-wide computer network through the Advanced Research Projects Agency. The National Science Foundation extended this network to civilian academic researchers in 1987. Usage continued to expand then exploded in the late 1990s when email and websites took over, and companies began to see how to do business differently.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

This is an edited version of a speech given to the National Press Club on October 31. A full transcript of the speech is available from the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies website.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Dr Neal Lane was Assistant to the President of the United States for Science and Technology and former Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Related Links
Department of Industry, Science, and Resources
Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies website
White House Office of Science and Technology
Photo of Neal Lane
Article Tools
Comment Comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy