ON-Lion Letter

"In the modern era, basic scientific research -- a 'public good,' often involving the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake -- has been foundational to innovation and thus, to economic growth and social progress," according to a February report by Mark P. Mills from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research's Center for Energy Policy and the Environment (CEPE).  "Fostering yet more open-ended research will give rise to the fundamental breakthroughs needed to revolutionize everything from health care and security to energy and the environment.

"But overall, U.S. leadership in basic research is slipping," Mills continues in Basic Research and the Innovation Frontier:  Decentralizing Federal Support and Stimulating Market Solutions.  "Funding support, in both absolute and relative terms, has been slowing for decades; in the last few years, this decline has accelerated.  The erosion of support for American scientists on the innovation frontier will create a damaging deficit of innovation in the future.  And it will only grow worse, with rising congressional pressure to cut 'discretionary' spending."

Mills is a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute and chief executive officer of the Digital Power Group, a tech-centric capital advisory group.

His CEPE report proposes four policy reforms:

1.      decentralize federal R&D spending;

2.      incentivize more private spending on basic research, through tax policies and other means;

3.      de-bureaucratize grant approval and monitoring, by using modern information tools to radically reduce the crushing nanny-state policing of scientists; and,

4.      reduce federal funding for industrial-class project development.

"Private-sector money and the organizational models and talent in U.S. research universities and institutions" should both be deployed to "revitaliz[e] the nation's basic science enterprise," Mills concludes.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports the Manhattan Institute's CEPE.

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