Universities, Key to Prosperity

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Science  22 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6088, pp. 1482
DOI: 10.1126/science.1225457

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By almost any measure, U.S. Research Universities are consistently ranked among the best in the world. Beginning with the Morrill Act (Land Grant College Act) of 1862, federal and state policies have underscored the nation's commitment to building the finest research institutions. As such, U.S. universities have been the incubators of the nation's prosperity. E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, which I once headed, is a great example. One of its key products, nylon, was made possible because of a Harvard-educated polymer researcher who brought his knowledge to DuPont. Today, that kind of connection is everywhere, from high-tech Silicon Valley startups to cutting-edge East Coast biomedical facilities. The talent and knowledge produced by research universities underpin many of the finest U.S. achievements, from seeding the modern agricultural system to enabling the World Wide Web. But new challenges are putting these important national assets in danger. The National Research Council (NRC) committee that I chaired to assess the capacities of U.S. universities has now released recommendations for maintaining their role in national prosperity.*