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The Future of America, Forgotten in 2016

Lou Anna K. Simon

Editor’s Note: Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon wrote the following opinion piece for U.S. News and World Report. Simon is also chair of the Association of American Universities.

It’s time for 2016 hopefuls to acknowledge federal investment in university research is vital to meeting the world’s greatest challenges.

If the “future of America” is to be more than hollow rhetoric this election season, presidential candidates should be asked: How would you leverage America’s research and development strength to defend our national security? What will you do to promote our knowledge-economy competitiveness against growing global competition? Who will develop our next generations of innovators and scientists?

Ask, because federal support for research at America’s universities dropped 11 percent from 2011 to 2014 when adjusted for inflation, and these funds make up over half of all university research, according to the National Science Foundation. “This is the longest multiyear decline in federal funding for academic R&D since the beginning of the annually collected data series in FY 1972,” the National Science Foundation concluded.

We fail to plant the seeds of discovery at our own risk. Extreme weather and shifting climate threaten global and domestic food supplies. Our information systems are hacked and turned against us. Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and antibiotic resistance weakens protections of the last century’s wonder drugs.

continue on U.S. News & World Report website…

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