In Response To The COVID-19 Pandemic, Private Sector Groups And Industry Associations, Scientific Societies And Academic Coalitions Unite To Urge Congress To Recommit To Funding And Sustaining The U.S. Scientific Enterprise

Organizations say that investing in America's R&D ecosystem must be a high priority in "future coronavirus response or economic stimulus supplementals"

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2020 — (PRNewswire) —  Today, the Task Force on American Innovation—a coalition of companies, business and university associations, and professional societies that support sustained and robust federal investment in basic science research – joined 17 other business, science, technology, and academic organizations in urging Congress to include the investments necessary to ensure the future health of the U.S. research enterprise in any additional coronavirus response legislation that is considered.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a dramatic reduction in research activity across the country, has stymied the ability of U.S. companies and universities to retain and train our STEM workforce, and has slowed down or stopped research projects of national importance. As the letter states, "...at a time when Congress, the Administration, and state and local leaders are relying on this national asset to find solutions to end this crisis, our nation's research enterprise is in peril."

"The letter we are sending to Congress today clearly shows a broad consensus that   comprehensive research funding must be included in future stimulus packages. Science and engineering research are key to rebuilding an innovative and globally competitive U.S. economy," said Scott Corley, Executive Director of The Task Force on American Innovation.

Corley added, "It is essential that our country's R&D capabilities be fully restored.  Now more than ever, we need our labs and research facilities to be fully functioning during this time of unprecedented health and economic challenges."

The signatories of the letter outline three specific ways Congress can address the COVID-19 challenge:

  • Significantly increasing scientific research funding across federal science agencies;
  • Maintaining and growing America's STEM workforce;
  • Investing in essential research infrastructure.

The letter is co-signed by:

The Task Force on American Innovation;

The Science Coalition;

Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research;

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Coalition;

The Coalition for Aerospace and Science (CAS);

The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF);

The Coalition for National Security Research (CNSR);

The Energy Sciences Coalition (ESC);

The Friends of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES);

Friends of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS);

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI);

National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research (NCFAR);

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Constituency Group;

The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Coalition;

The National Photonics Initiative;

Research!America;

TechNet;

United for Medical Research (UMR).

The attached letter is also on the TFAI website, www.innovationtaskforce.org

May 4, 2020

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Office of the Senate Majority Leader

US Capitol S-230
 Washington, DC 20510

 

Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer

Office of the Senate Democratic Leader

US Capitol S-221

Washington, DC 20510

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Office of the Speaker of the House

US Capitol H-232

Washington, DC 20515

 

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy

Office of the House Republican Leader

US Capitol H-204

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Democratic Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader McCarthy:

America's scientific research enterprise – both public and private – is the most robust in the world and a national asset for economic growth and national security. However, at a time when Congress, the Administration, and state and local leaders are relying on this national asset to find solutions to end this crisis, our nation's research enterprise is in peril.

The COVID-19 crisis has severely impacted nearly every part of America's scientific enterprise, from the private sector to our colleges, universities and medical schools to our federally supported research facilities and national laboratories. While it is impossible to determine the full ramifications of the pandemic at this time, it has already resulted in a dramatic reduction of non-COVID-19 related research activity across the country, stymied our ability to retain and train our STEM workforce, and slowed down or stopped research projects of national importance. Many of these concerns are also captured in an April 7 research relief letter to Congress from several higher education associations.

Congress must take decisive actions to address the short- and long-term impacts of this nationwide ramp-down and shuttering of labs. As the leaders of 18 broad-based coalitions and groups – representing hundreds of companies, business and university associations, professional societies, and academic institutions committed to ensuring the vitality of the U.S. innovation ecosystem – we want to offer to work together to develop the legislative packages necessary to safely restart and strengthen America's R&D engine.

With this in mind, we offer a set of recommendations concerning our research enterprise broadly for any future legislative packages aimed at addressing, mitigating and recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Specifically, we believe the following three areas should be addressed by Congress in future coronavirus response or economic stimulus supplementals:

Significantly Increase Scientific Research Funding Across Federal Science Agencies: An essential part of any economic stimulus must be to strengthen the nation's commitment to the broad, critical scientific research that will enable our effective responses to COVID-19, prevent future health pandemics, and restore our vibrant economy. The scientific research enterprise's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is this era's Manhattan project and requires collaboration across all scientific disciplines—from supercomputing to identify novel treatments, to utilizing advanced photonics to characterize the virus—all scientific disciplines are needed, and both the public and private sectors must continue to collaborate on research.

Congress should provide federal science agencies increased support for direct research programs broadly, in addition to the funding already provided by the CARES Act to specific programs dedicated to fighting and ultimately curing COVID-19. This increase would enable federal agencies to award the supplemental funding necessary to restart labs and experiments and also award current grantees full or partial cost extensions, as necessary. Many researchers will need ramp-up funding to restart their research once their labs reopen and additional funding to complete their grants' original scopes of work due to time lost and resources spent during the crisis.

Maintain and Grow our STEM Workforce: Our coalitions are particularly concerned about the acute economic impacts of the pandemic on students, scholars and early career researchers, as well as the pipeline of this STEM talent to the US private sector. As scientists enter an increasingly hamstrung economy and uncertain job market, the expansion of traineeship, fellowship and internship opportunities will be integral to support the human capital at the core of the American research enterprise. By investing in and extending the length of eligibility for key programs – as well as backfilling and bridging existing support – Congress can help patch leaks in the STEM talent pipeline.

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