The scientist in society  pg. 4

As Judith Bond, Ph.D., former president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, wrote in 2006: “Funding strategies must provide opportunities for exploring new ideas, taking advantage of an unexpected finding or serendipitous discovery. There is no single path to discovery, problem-solving and knowledge creation.”

Is the preeminence of U.S. science being threatened by the “globalization” of biomedical research?

Surely, the current bureaucratic regulatory burdens and dwindling funding environment in the United States have created a great deal of anxiety in the scientific community. Our preeminence in scientific leadership is being threatened by increasing research investments in Europe, Japan, China, India, Singapore and South Korea. This rise in research growth in other countries will boost the U.S. scientific enterprise only if we embrace and partner with them from our strengths, not from our weaknesses.

If we increase our investments in science and take our research to a new level, then scientific interactions and exchanges will bring benefits globally to humankind. In failing to do so, we will face a reverse brain drain, meaning that U.S. scientists will relocate their research programs in those countries.

This has already started. Several U.S. scientists have relocated their programs in other countries, and many foreign-born scientists who settled in the United States for the quest of science are now returning to their home countries to further their scientific pursuits. The scientific environment here is becoming less attractive to them. The situation is likely to get worse, since fewer U.S. students are interested in pursuing a science career. There should be an all-out effort at the national and local levels to combat this deteriorating situation.

What must we do to protect and nurture quality science in this country?

If we want to maintain our leadership position in science and technology, there has to be a radical change in our culture at all levels. There has to be an infusion of resources for pursuing careers in science and to convince our young generation that pursuit of science is noble and serves humankind.

We need to see substantial increases in federal funding to stop further erosion within the scientific community. There are now remarkable opportunities to establish scientific exchange programs with other countries which are substantially investing on science and technology.

Does the United States have a responsibility to aid the scientific enterprise in developing countries?

Absolutely. One major objective of scientific discoveries is to fulfill human needs and curiosity. Everyone in the world should have that privilege and opportunity, especially in these days of globalization. The only way this objective can be fully realized is if the developing countries also engage in scientific pursuits, but they will, of course, require help from other advanced countries.

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