Senior Fellow Paul Romer testified before the House Budget Committee, “Fueling American Innovation and Recovery: The Federal Role in Research and Development,” on what it will take for the United States to be a leader in both basic science and technological progress. Romer traces the history of U.S. leadership in science and technology from the 18th century, when the country was a follower along both dimensions; to the passage of the Morrill Act of 1862, which motivated technological innovation; to where we are today, a leader in science but a follower in technology. In a statement Romer later released on his website, he writes:
So for me, the story of the US in the last 120 years is the story of the traverse from technological leadership to scientific leadership. From this perspective, the challenge now is not to invent a new strategy for being the worldwide technological leader. It is to revive the strategy that worked before, and in so doing, to find a better balance between the policies that foster basic scientific leadership and the ones that encourage technological leadership. This nation can do both, but it will not do both if the advocates for basic science always get their way in any policy decision.
The statement closes with general principles that could help rebuild the country’s capacity for technological progress without jeopardizing its achievements in basic science:
1. People are what matter, not papers or patents
2. Achieve robustness via competition
3. Protect scientific integrity by separating the roles of decision-maker and fact-finder