Georgia Tech President Clough to Address Federal Funding for Science Research for Senate Committee

G. Wayne Clough, president of the Georgia Institute of Technology and member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) will testify in Washington, D.C., today before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on the growing imbalance between federal support for basic science research and support for research in the life sciences.

Clough will specifically address the importance of funding for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, which provides 40 percent of federal funding for basic science research. Recently, the federal funding for research has focused on the life sciences, a development that PCAST has cautioned may result in unbalancing the federal research and development portfolio, potentially harming not only science and engineering fields, but biomedical research as well. Clough is expected to testify that biomedical research relies not just on biology, but also on chemistry, physics and various fields of engineering and declining federal support in these areas will negatively impact the life sciences.

Research from the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, of which Clough is an executive committee member, indicates that the United States needs to be a leader in every major field of research if it is to sustain the innovation that drives the country's prosperity and world leadership. One indicator that the United States is in danger of slipping in its global leadership role in science research is the decrease in the number of Ph.D.'s awarded in these fields. The number of Ph.D.s awarded in the United States in the sciences peaked in 1998. Engineering Ph.D.s peaked in 1996 and had declined by more than 15 percent by 1999. Federal funding of university research is seen by graduate students as an indicator of career opportunities. As the financial support slips away, so do the number of potential researchers in the United States. The drop in researchers is occurring, at the same time that international universities are ramping up their programs and luring many graduate students away from American universities.

In addition to funding research grants and contracts, the Office of Science also runs the country's 10 national laboratories and 14 technology centers. Providing university researchers with access to these facilities, the Office of Science offers incredible opportunities for university researchers to use research tools, such as the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Lab and the National Synchrotron Light Source at the Brookhaven National Lab. Federal support is crucial to keeping these relationships growing.

Clough was invited to testify before the committee by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the subcommittee on energy. Also testifying will be Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham; Director of the Office of Science Ray Orbach; Nobel laureate and former director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator, Burton Richter; and Hermann Grunder, director of Argonne National Laboratory. The hearing will take place at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room SD-366 at 9:30 a.m.