President Obama highlights the importance of basic research in the State of the Union address

In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama called economic fairness “the defining issue of our time.” In addition to focusing on tax reform, foreign policy and domestic job creation, the president also drew attention to several topics of interest to the biomedical research community, particularly, the importance of federal support for basic research.

“Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don’t gut these investments in our budget,” he told Congress. “Don’t let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet, to new American jobs and new American industries.”

Obama also emphasized the growing number of science and technology jobs and the importance of a STEM-skilled American work force.

“I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that – openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work.”

Additionally, he showed support for immigration reform that will help scientists trained in America remain here to work.

“[Some immigrants] came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else,” he said. “We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now. [L]et’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses and defend this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away.”

Even in these times of budget cuts and partisan politics, scientists should be encouraged by the president’s commitment to basic research funding.

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