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The hyper-partisan state of our current political environment extends to the once congenial House Science Committee, leaving many in the science community worried. Recently, there have been disagreements between the Republican majority and Democratic minority. The committee’s Republican Chairman, Lamar Smith (R-Texas), refuses to share details of investigations into scientific organizations and nonprofits with his democratic peers. The constant infighting and unwillingness to cross party lines has many in the scientific community hoping that the upcoming elections will produce new leadership and a Congress more willing to work together on important issues that greatly affect the health and well-being of the United States and the world.
Federally funded research and development always has been a cornerstone of the U.S. economy. In the past half-century, two-thirds of all advancements in technology, medicine and engineering have been a result of federally funded research. However, in the current political climate, federal funding for R&D is greatly lacking, leading to the U.S. falling from the world ranks as the top country for government-funded R&D to now 12th. Even with the drastic reduction in available federal funds, future projections suggest these numbers will continue to decrease, leading to historically low federal expenditures on R&D as a percent of gross domestic product. These projections have led many in the scientific community to plead that the next presidential administration reevaluate and hold innovation-based growth as a top economic priority for the future.