John Marburger III '62, a physicist and the top science adviser to President Bush, emphasized the need for fundamental research rather than politically popular applied science programs and responded to concerns over a decline in research funding to a large audience in Guyot 10 Tuesday.
Marburger said Congress should invest in nanotechnology, biotechnology, security spending and the National Institute of Standards and Technology this year.
Marburger spent much of his hour-long talk titled "Science and the Federal Budget" describing the process of prioritizing and funding the research of various government agencies.
Allocating research money has become a more difficult task each year, Marburger said, citing evidence that the proposed 2006 budget will cut research funding but still be higher than historical averages.
"As a percentage of the total discretionary domestic budget, the non-defense R&D [Research and Development] has remained constant at about 11 percent over the last three or four decades," he said, showing a chart.
In response to concerns from faculty members who had suffered funding cuts, Marburger suggested private research institutions were expanding faster than the government could expand funding.
"The opportunities [in research] have been expanding faster than the willingness of society to pay," Marburger said.
Marburger said he hoped to see more public policy analysis of science research programs.
"We don't have anything like an economic model for science research in this country," he said. "Are we producing too many scientists? I don't know."
Audience members also questioned whether science had become too political under the Bush administration.
Marburger said science had expanded its power to address social issues, and that naturally brought increasing controversy.
"From my perspective science is working the same as it always has," he said, drawing on his pexperience as president of SUNY Stony Brook and director of Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Marburger received criticism from the audience for Bush policies on global warming.
"Global warming exists, and we have to do something about it, and what we have to do about it is reduce CO2," he said. "Let's stop fighting about Kyoto."
He said Bush had regulated diesel emissions and was investing $4 billion in alternative energy research.
"It's very difficult to do the economics of climate change," he said.
Marburger also explained how federal funding is appropriated by the government.
The National Institutes of Health receives 47 percent of civilian science spending, NASA 15 percent, and the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy about 10 percent of the total. In the last decade funding for NIH has nearly doubled, while environmental research lagged.
Although NASA was "hooked on shuttle flights" because of commitments to the International Space Station, he said, "the President really wants to see the science part of the NASA budget sustained and increased."
The budgets for these agencies are controlled by different executive and congressional jurisdictions and committees, making the process of creating and funding a coherent science policy difficult, he said.
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