Continuing a recent trend of high-level officials voicing their support for investment in scientific research, United States Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a speech last week in which he praised the role of government funding for basic research. Calling fundamental research “ultimately the source of most innovation,” Bernanke credited “federal research initiatives and government support [for] enabling the emergence of new technologies.”
The necessity of government funding to compensate for funding lags in private industry was a constant theme throughout Bernanke’s speech, as he pointed out that the “primary economic rationale for a government role in R&D [Research and Development] is that… the private market would not adequately supply certain types of research,” echoing a key point consistently made by ASBMB in its meetings with congressional offices. Bernanke also called attention to the multiplicative effect of investment in basic scientific research as justification for increased funding. Arguing that “the full economic value of a scientific advance is unlikely to accrue to its discoverer,” Bernanke stated that society would instead realize several-fold economic benefits through trickle-down effects. He went on to highlight several discoveries to augment his argument, citing the discovery of the structure of DNA as a prominent example.
The speech was delivered to an audience consisting of global business leaders, policymakers, and researchers during a conference on “New Building Blocks for Jobs and Economic Growth.” Bernanke’s remarks will be extremely helpful as ASBMB members continue to campaign in support of increased funding for basic scientific research.