Beyond the Stimulus

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Science  20 Feb 2009:
Vol. 323, Issue 5917, pp. 983
DOI: 10.1126/science.1172425

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The American public understands that innovation in science and technology is the best guarantor of our economic future. National research budgets are not subsidies but strategic investments to be sustained even in the worst of times. Thanks to the relevant administration and congressional leaders, science has been well served in the stimulus package just signed by President Obama. The $21.5 billion for R&D projects over the next 2 years is the result of compromises based on a variety of opinions as to the proper levels of support for U.S. science. Take funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example. The House initially proposed that the NIH receive $3.5 billion, whereas the Senate, under the extraordinary leadership of Senator Arlen Specter, proposed $10 billion, the figure in the final bill. So what should the appropriate level of support be beyond the stimulus? Is there a quantifiable rationale beyond "more is always better?"