The Hertz Foundation Refuses to Fall Short

posted: 2/13/2018
Hertz Staff
listed in Hertz Foundation

After months of continuing resolutions, Congress successfully passed a two-year budget deal in the early hours of the morning on Friday. Though the details of specific research spending will remain uncertain as Congress debates on omnibus appropriations bill, it seems we can expect a welcome boost to the NIH's budget, and for many other science agencies to keep science spending near 2017 levels. As MIT Vice President for Research, Maria T. Zuber, points out in her recent OpEd for The New York Times entitled "Falling Short on Science," government funding for scientific research is critical and plays an invaluable role in securing our nation's position as the world leader in science, engineering and innovation. Zuber notes that, since World War II, federal dollars directed to research have enabled scientists and engineers to explore ideas and solve real world problems. Many were thus enabled to take great risks that no one in the private sector would have had the courage to support, and led to some of the greatest, life-saving, or life-changing, rewards.

Despite the continuing and resounding need for more knowledge, more discoveries, and more innovation, the days of unwavering commitment of federal support to science and innovation in the U.S. are long gone. I have seen government funding for research remain stagnant – and actually decrease when adjusted for inflation – over the course of my career in higher education. As Zuber points out, while the U.S. has reduced its investments, other countries have dramatically increased their R&D funding, including China, which is predicted to outspend the U.S. on science by 2020. Reduced attention to science and innovation harms our leadership in critical arenas like biomedical, aerospace, and Artificial Intelligence research, and could soon lead to the neglect of other crucial areas –medical advances, national security technologies, and renewable energy, to name a few – that will define the lives of millions in this century.

For decades, we have largely depended upon the federal government to make the investments necessary to drive our country forward. It is important that government continue to embrace this leadership role, as funding of this magnitude is irreplaceable. However, we should also celebrate the role private philanthropy plays in stimulating and supporting research in this country. The flexibility and diversity inherent in philanthropy has a powerful creative effect on the entire research enterprise. Engaging our visionary philanthropists (individuals, as well as corporate and foundation leaders) in an even more robust and strategic role, can help further shape and accelerate the type of bold, risk-taking science and innovation that has helped fuel our nation's prosperity, security, and quality of life over the last 70 years.

The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation was founded on the understanding that innovative and entrepreneurial solutions are vital to the strength, security and prosperity of our nation. More than 60 years since its founding, Hertz Fellowship recipients now comprise one of the most influential and accomplished groups of scientific and technological leaders in the American corporate, university, national laboratory, and military sectors. We will continue to do our part in investing in America’s future and helping maintain the U.S.’s leadership position in innovation by identifying and supporting the young people who will lead in critical, groundbreaking research. What will you do?