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America's Innovation Edge Now in Peril, Report Says

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A sweeping new report urges significant policy and funding action to ensure the United States does not lose the preeminent position in discovery and innovation it has built since the end of World War II.

"The Perils of Complacency: America at a Tipping Point in Science and Engineering" is published by Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

"The United States became a world power — economically, militarily, and culturally — in significant part by placing a high priority on innovation, fueled by advances in science and technology," the report's authors write. "This priority, in turn, required investing in R&D, especially fundamental research conducted in universities and national laboratories across the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine."

China is projected to become the world's largest economy when measured by gross domestic product by 2030, according to the report. "By 2026, the 250th anniversary of the United States, China's strategic plan calls for it to be well on its way to becoming the unchallenged world leader in science, technology, and innovation. These developments are perilous for America, which today, 50 years after the Apollo 11 moon landing, is at a tipping point in R&D," the authors write.

"Recent developments are placing additional stress on the U.S. research system even as they underscore its indispensability in providing the fuel for American innovation and competitiveness as well as the know-how required to address the nation's many societal challenges," the authors say. "Security concerns have led some policymakers to propose draconian restrictions on the very same foreign researchers on whom we have come to rely to fill the persistent domestic talent gap in science and engineering."

One result of recent and proposed immigration restrictions is that other countries have become more competitive at attracting workers, the authors write.

The authors expand on the recommendations outlined in a 2014 report, which focused on R&D priorities, and urge action to strengthen STEM education and the American workforce.

From Rice University
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