President Donald Trump’s new science adviser Kelvin Droegemeier wants industry to take a larger role in funding research, with the ultimate goal of beginning a new “second golden era” of U.S. science, Nature reports.
Collaboration between the public and private sectors, as well as reducing regulatory burdens, would be key to maintaining America as a dominant global force in science, the meteorologist said on February 15, in his first public address since taking office last month.
“This is the best time in history to come into science. We’ve never been in a better position than right now to truly remain the global leaders in science and technology,” Droegemeier told a crowd at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC.
During his speech, Droegemeier did not address climate change, environmental issues or other scientific topics that Trump has disparaged publicly. His comments on the President were limited to assurances that “science and technology are alive and well in the Trump administration,” and mentions of the White House’s AI and advanced manufacturing initiatives as examples of its commitment to science.
Droegemeier said that the Trump administration is “laser-focused” on improving the ability to translate academic research into marketable products, which would require greater collaboration between the federal government, industry and non-profit foundations. Private funding for basic scientific research has increased in recent years, and surpassed federal funding in 2015. Data compiled by the AAAS show that government spending on science has largely remained flat since 2004.
According to Droegemeier, to address the changing mix of funding, the public and private sectors should work together to better leverage their individual resources and expertise. “America is truly now entering a second golden era in the endless frontier of science and technology” – the first being the boom in research seen during and directly after World War II. “We need to take an enterprise-wide view,” Droegemeier added.
When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first satellite, in 1957, only the US government had the financial resources to develop technology to match that feat. Today, Droegemeier said, such needs might be met by private industry. He called for a return of “blue sky” research labs such as the famed Bell Laboratories, which developed the transistor and laser. Similar “alpha institutes” today could work on major problems such as infectious disease and climate change, he said.
Another of Trump’s priorities is to remove what the administration considers as unnecessary regulations and administrative hurdles to research, he pointed out.
Droegemeier cited “guesstimates” that the time spent fulfilling unspecified compliance requirements costs the country billions of dollars, Nature adds.