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Shrinking U.S. Investment In Scientific R&D ‘Affects The Whole World’

In his State of the Union address on February 12, President Barack Obama “called for a new era of scientific discovery,” an Economist editorial states, adding, “This would mean spending more on research.” But “[a]s The Economist went to press, America’s government was about to do the opposite,” the editorial states, noting federal spending will be cut on March 1 under what is known as the “sequester.” The editorial continues, “Among the areas to be squeezed is [research and development (R&D)], and medical research in particular.”

“For years America has enjoyed pre-eminence in research, but this is fading,” the Economist states, summarizing research spending in the U.S. compared with other countries. “With the sequester, public investment will shrink further,” the editorial writes, adding, “These cuts will speed the erosion of American supremacy in research.” The editorial concludes that the effects will be felt worldwide, writing, “[T]he real problem is absolute, not relative, and affects the whole world, not just America. R&D is a rare type of public spending that stimulates growth. Knowledge is cumulative, easy to share and generates benefits that spill rapidly across borders” (3/2).