I had the privilege earlier this month of helping The Science Coalition honor Washington State University alumna, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray with a “Champion of Science” award at the organization’s annual “Breakfast of Champions” in Washington D.C.
The award recognizes Congressional members who are vocal advocates for federal investment in research. Sen. Murray was honored as a Champion of Science in the class of 2014 as well, and continues to be one of the most vocal proponents of federal investment in basic research conducted at our nation’s colleges and universities. She and her fellow champions see federal research dollars as an investment in our nation’s economic future. They understand the long-term return on that investment in terms of growing the economy, finding scientific discoveries to address challenges in areas like health, sustaining resources, and improving national security while increasing our competitiveness in the global marketplace and technological innovations.
In addition to our time with Sen. Murray, we have met with every member or the staff of Washington’s Congressional delegation over the past several weeks as well as with representatives from a number of federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Energy, Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In each of those visits, our message was clear: we appreciate our longstanding partnerships in scientific innovations and for the federal investment in basic research, which is critical not only for the United States’ future prosperity and strength, but also for maintaining our state’s competitive advantage in agriculture, life sciences, clean technology, advanced manufacturing, aerospace, and other areas.
Just last week, a group of four executives from Lockheed-Martin, Microsoft and Merck Research Labs emphasized that same message at a public symposium on Capitol Hill. The speakers supported the goals and action items outlined in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ recent report – “Restoring the Foundation: The Vital Role of Research in Preserving the American Dream” – which in turn led to the creation of “Innovation: An American Imperative.” This call to action in support of federal support for basic research carries the signatures of industry leaders as well as more than 300 colleges and universities, businesses and other organizations from every state in the union.
For WSU, our state’s land-grant institution, continued public investment in basic research is imperative for our long-term success in supporting Washingtonians. WSU is one of just 108 U.S. public and private universities – out of more than 4,500 – singled out for its “very high research activity” in the Carnegie Classification with annual research expenditures of nearly $336 million in 2015. Approximately half of those funds come in the form of federal grants. The ability of WSU and our fellow public universities and colleges to enhance the long-term prosperity and innovation strength of our state’s key industries, hinges on that investment growing.
Over the last couple of years, WSU has ramped up its engagement with both legislative staffs and federal agencies to increase its voice in Washington DC. We need to make sure that our faculty are in front of agency directors and that grant programs are being crafted that match the comparative advantage of our institution.
WSU is proud of our partnerships with key federal agencies and grateful for the years of federal grants that helped create innovations right here in our state. Our newest research agenda is aimed at creating tangible solutions to complex societal problems with direct local impact, and our research will need the support of partners and collaborators at the federal level. WSU will stand side by side with others across this nation actively working to sustain the federal government’s investment in basic scientific research as a means to stimulate the economy, spur innovation and drive global competitiveness.