Scientists are warning that the cuts in government spending on research is holding back innovation, some of which might have created life-saving treatments for millions of people. MIT physicist, Marc Kastner, along with others at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wrote “The Future Postponed” which is a report detailing how the lack of federal spending on science has harmed America.
The scientists say that an “innovation deficit” has occurred, which means that the lack of government spending on research is not allowing researchers to get funding for even the most basic of studies. The MIT researchers say that over 15 different fields are impacted by the lack of government spending, including fusion energy, robotics, and Alzheimer’s disease research. The funding for science is now the lowest since World War II, and this means that the future of this country is in jeopardy, as life-saving innovations are not happening as they should be. While normally, funding at the government level for research is not a political issue, lately it has become one between the White House and Congress.
The White House mandated cuts and Congress never reached a deal on reducing the federal deficit, which means that the National Institutes of Health has seen less money than in previous years. Other science agencies have also been affected by the White House cuts and failures of Congress, with climate change being one of the hottest issues that has tied up financial resources. In 1968, the federal government spending for research was at 10 percent, but now it’s only around 3 percent. With cuts to the space program and shares of gross domestic product dropping, the science industry has taken quite a hit.
However, while America is cutting spending on science and research, other countries are actually putting more money into research and science programs. Within the last year, China developed the fastest computer in the world, and the European Space Agency landed a spacecraft on a comet. In terms of what this means for the future, America is no longer the science superpower that it once was, and even less developed countries are moving ahead of the nation in terms of science and innovation. The MIT researchers warn that the drug market is also sluggish, with no new advancements being made to protect people from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which could threaten the human population sooner than later. Since drug companies often don’t think of antibiotics as a money maker, most of them won’t invest in new technology or new types of medicines to combat problems, and that means the money fro the government has to be used to do this. However, since money from the government is not coming in, these types of important innovations are not being made, and at this point, not even being researched to the extent needed to come up with a solution.
The quantum computer market is something China has been putting a lot of money into, but America has not, and this can boost cybersecurity to the nation. There needs to be research done on engineering viruses, which can actually identify and also destroy certain types of cancer cells. If America could put money into engineering the viruses, then there is a good chance a cure for some of the most common cancers would be imminent, but the lack of federal money has stopped these types of breakthroughs from happening.
In terms of all of these innovations, if America was able to put money into the research and develop these products, then it would also further help the economy grow. Obviously, if China is making quantum computers, then China will be the one getting all of the money when other countries look to purchase them. The report from MIT details just how dangerous it really is for the country as a whole not to be putting money into research, especially at a time when other countries are coming up looking to be the next superpower. The only thing the report lacks detail on is exactly how the government could increase science spending, and what other programs the government could cut in order to move the money over to science and research. The report does not include details on what types of policies would help or how they could be achieved, but it gives a lot of insight into how close a lot of the fields are at major breakthroughs, if only they had the money to continue research.