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Congress Must Step Up for Science

February 28, 2022

The U.S. risks falling behind if it doesn’t prioritize federal investment in research and development

The Risk

If the U.S. doesn’t bolster federal spending on research and development, it will not be ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century — climate change, the next pandemic and more. Failing to boost investment will cede global leadership on science and technology to competing countries, including China.

The Urgency

While other nations are increasing federal spending on research and development, the U.S. has stalled.

  • In 1964, at the peak of the space race, federal spending on science and technology made up 1.9% of GDP. Today, it’s just 0.7%. 
  • In the U.S., the share of global research and development spending performed by all institutions — all levels of government, higher education and businesses — declined from 29% in 2010 to 27% in 2019. In contrast, China’s share increased from 15% to 22% during the same period.
  • China is on track to overtake the U.S. in total R&D spending by 2030.
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics: https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsb2021/figure/12

The Opportunity

The federal government has the chance to build on the success of last year’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Job Act, by passing a budget that prioritizes science and technology.

  • Members of Congress already have a blueprint: The Build Back Better reconciliation bill and 2022 appropriations proposals include provisions that have already been carefully considered and enjoy bipartisan support. Learn more: Read our briefing paper on a roadmap for science funding.
  • Policymakers are also the process of finalizing a bill that would provide financial incentives to semiconductor manufacturers that locate manufacturing facilities in the U.S., a necessity to avert a future chip shortage.

What’s Next

As lawmakers develop a federal budget for the next fiscal year, it’s critical they substantially increase investment in research and development.

The Action Committee’s projections indicate that federal science and technology spending must reach 1.4% of GDP, roughly double what it is now, for the U.S. to remain a global leader.

Join STAC for a Virtual Event on March 31. Click Image to Register.

The Science & Technology Action Committee is a group of 22 non-profit, academic, foundation, and corporate leaders working to dramatically strengthen U.S. science and technology. The Committee is co-chaired by: Keith Yamamoto, Vice Chancellor for Science Policy & Strategy UCSF, Sudip Parikh, CEO, The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and Mary Woolley, President & CEO, Research!America.