Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Economic Impact of Research and Development

Research is a noble pursuit. There are long hours of work, sometimes with no results to show for it; yet, researchers persist. Most scientists I know enter the field because they want to do something that positively affects society. Often, we think of the health impact that research has—treating diseases and saving lives—but there’s more to it than that. Research supports scores of well-paying jobs, which keeps the regional economy strong, even in difficult economic times.

Like others, one reason I pursued research was to help people and society. After graduate school, I realized I wanted to effect change from a broader perspective than my graduate work was allowing, so I accepted this position as a science policy fellow at Research!America.

I have learned a lot about government, advocacy and science policy at Research!America - things I couldn’t have learned in the lab. One of the messages that Research!America focuses on that really interested me was the economic impact of research. It’s been eye-opening to understand the positive effects research can have beyond the health aspects that we typically think of.

It is the right time to get the message out that research and development can bolster the economy. The US is currently in a difficult position. The economy has slowed considerably, unemployment is through the roof, and you can’t listen to the news without hearing how large the country’s debt is. Many of members of the new Congress have vowed to cut spending to ameliorate the debt. But, according to others, we can’t jump-start the economy without spending.

The recent report by the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform clearly stated its opinion on the matter, “…we must invest in education, infrastructure, and high-value research and development to help our economy grow, keep us globally competitive, and make it easier for businesses to create jobs.” Let’s hope our legislators understand this point.

The next post in this series describes some of the economic benefits of research and development.

This is Part 1 of 4 in our Economic Impact of R&D series.
Part 1 - Economic Impact of Research & Development
Part 2 - Biosciences: Where the Jobs Are
Part 3 - Economic Impact of R&D Ranked by State
Part 4 - Show Me the Money

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