Shutting off the sequester and any other science-cutting measures that Congress may be considering and restoring funding for critical research is an essential and urgent first step. But we need to go further.
An insightful report by the Center for American Progress called "300 Million Engines of Growth," outlines an aggressive vision for reinventing the U.S. innovation system for the 21st century. It advocates placing the budgets of three key federal research agencies on a sustainable doubling path, making sure we get the most we can out of our national labs, and investing in grand challenges in the form of what it calls "Frontier Prizes" that can push the boundaries of science and engineering.
In an increasingly globalized and digitized world, nations across the globe recognize that knowledge quite literally is power. Members of Congress who place austerity above all else need to ask themselves how falling back from the frontiers of knowledge is somehow good for the economy. I have yet to hear that argument.
Neal Lane is a former science advisor to President Bill Clinton and currently a Professor at Rice University.