In an open letter to the US president Barack Obama and Congress, the university chiefs have called for the closing of the so-called “innovation deficit” to be made a national imperative, amid concerns that major federal budget cuts to higher education are out of step with the policies being pursued in other countries.
“Throughout our history, this nation has kept the promise of a better tomorrow to each generation,” the letter says. “This has been possible because of our economic prosperity based in large part on America’s role as global innovation leader.
“Failing to deal with the innovation deficit will pass to future generations the burdens of lost leadership in innovation, economic decline, and limited job opportunities. We call upon you to reject unsound budget cuts and recommit to strong and sustained investments in research and education.”
The letter goes on to point out that, over the past two decades, China, Singapore, and South Korea have dramatically increased their investments in research and higher education, outstripping he growth rate of US research and development investments by 200-400 per cent.
Organised by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the letter comes at a critical times for the US Congress. Annual funding bills, the debt limit, and measures to eliminate or modify the spending cuts forced by sequestration – the cap placed on the total amount of government expenditure - could all be debated this autumn.
While the legislative path for those measures is not yet known, the letter notes that investment in research and higher education should be sustained regardless of overall funding levels, because they are sources of long-term fiscal stability and economic growth.
“Because the innovation deficit undermines economic growth it harms our nation’s overall fiscal health, worsening long-term budget deficits and debt,” the university leaders wrote. “Investments in research and education are not inconsistent with long-term deficit reduction; they are vital to it.”
The letter and signatories can be viewed here.