Washington Update

Capitol Hill Briefing Highlights Increasing Challenges to U.S. Scientific Leadership

By: Edna Chiang
Thursday, May 23, 2019

On May 14, the Task Force on American Innovation (TFAI), a non-partisan alliance of American companies and associations, research universities, and scientific societies, hosted a Capitol Hill briefing to release their report, “Benchmarks 2019: Second Place America? Increasing Challenges to U.S. Scientific Leadership.” This event was hosted by House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chair Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and ranking member Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK).

The benchmark report compared U.S. global scientific leadership against that of other nations in five categories: research and development investment; knowledge creation and new ideas (scientific publications and patents); education; workforce; and high-tech sectors (aerospace, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, nanotechnology, telecommunications, and supercomputing).

This is the fourth in a series of benchmark reports from TFAI since 2005, and the message is similar to previous versions: although the U.S. has a strong history of research and technology leadership, our competitive advantage is waning as competitors rapidly increase their investments in science. Tobin Smith, Vice President for Policy at the Association of American Universities who presented the latest report at the briefing, highlighted the tremendous research growth in China and other countries that threatens U.S. scientific preeminence.

A panel discussion with scientists from academia and industry rounded out the briefing: Nadya Bliss, Director of the Global Security Initiative at Arizona State University; Eric Fanning, President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association; Michael McQuade, Vice President for Research at Carnegie Mellon University; and John Neuffer, President and CEO of the Semiconductor Industry Association. This discussion was moderated by David Isaacs, Vice President of Government Affairs at the Semiconductor Industry Association.

The panelists expressed grave concern about the report’s findings on international research growth, and that the U.S. must address it as a key national priority. To sustain its scientific standing in the world, panelists portended, the U.S. must increase dependable, long-term investment in science and technology. Creating programs that prepare students to enter the scientific workforce – and attracting international students to pursue U.S. scientific careers – were additional recommendations from the panel.