Obama speaks to National Academy of Sciences

President Obama addressed the attendees at the 146th annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences this morning, where he highlighted new directives that support his science initiatives, including a new agency for high-risk energy research and increased funding for education at the secondary and graduate levels.

According to NAS President Ralph Cicerone, who gave introductory remarks, every room of the NAS building in Washington, including the hallways, was packed with people -scientists and politicians alike.

The president began by addressing a recent major complaint: that increasing funding for science isn’t practical in this recession, a claim with which he “fundamentally disagrees.”

“Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment and our quality of life than it has ever been,” Obama said.

Here are some highlights from his speech.

Funding: The President promised that more than three percent of the U.S. gross domestic product will be used to fuel science and development.  He reiterated his campaign promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and highlighted his budget’s planned $150 billion over the next ten years to invest in sources of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Research: The president announced funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, which was signed into law in the 2007 America COMPETES Act. ARPA-E will seek to do high-risk, high-reward energy research. Obama said this agency will help “make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America.”

Secondary education: States making strong commitments and progress in math and science education will be eligible to compete this fall for funds, the President said, under the $5 billion Race to the Top. Examples of this progress could be by raising standards, modernizing science labs, upgrading curriculum, and forging partnerships to improve the use of science and technology in our classrooms, he said.

Graduate education: The president’s budget will triple the number of National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships.

But the one announcement that drew the greatest reaction, in the form of raucous applause and even shouts from the crowd, was a hark back to the last eight years.

“Under my administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over,” Obama said. “Our progress as a nation, and our values as a nation, are rooted in free and open inquiry. To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy.”

Author: Christine Buckley

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