Report: research universities essential for U.S. prosperity, security

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- America’s research universities are essential for U.S. prosperity and security, but in danger of serious decline unless the federal government, states and industry take action to ensure adequate, stable funding in the next decade, according to a report issued June 14 by the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering.

The report, titled “Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthough Actions Vital to Our Nation’s Prosperity and Security,” was requested by Congress as a follow-up to a study on U.S. competitiveness issued by the academies in 2005. The new report recommends 10 strategic actions that the nation should take in the next five to 10 years to maintain top-quality U.S. research institutions.

“The talent, innovative ideas and new technologies produced by U.S. research universities have led to some of our finest national achievements, from the modern agricultural revolution to the accessibility of the World Wide Web,” said Charles O. Holiday Jr., chair of the committee that wrote the report, chairman of the board of Bank of America, and former chair and CEO of DuPont. “Especially in these tough economic times, the nation cannot afford to defer investment in our best asset for building prosperity and success in the future.”

Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities, said the report is “a call to action to which our nation needs to respond. It recognizes the fundamental role of research universities in the nation’s long-term prosperity and security, and rightfully calls on the federal and state governments, industry, philanthropy and universities alike to take responsibility for ensuring that these institutions remain the best in the world.”

“I have read the summary of the report and I applaud the committee’s insights and its recommendations,” said Henry C. Foley, Penn State vice president for research and dean of the graduate school. “At Penn State, we are committed to our nation’s economic health and security. We know that our role is to be an engine for innovation. As a legacy land-grant university, for more than 150 years we have integrated research, teaching and outreach into one for the benefit of all."

“As we research, so too do we teach. Recently, we have changed our intellectual property practices with industry in a way that will make Penn State ‘Open for Innovation’. By allowing companies to own the intellectual property that proceeds from research they fund, we have removed what has been the highest hurdle to cooperation between Penn State and the private sector. Our number-one goal is to ensure the success of our students and this is one very potent way for us to do that,” Foley said.

With $805 million in research expenditures in 2011 and top-10 programs in fields ranging from materials to psychology, Penn State is one of the nation’s leading research universities. The University has long been a leader in industry-sponsored research, with $107 million in industry-sponsored expenditures in 2011 and research partnerships with more than 400 companies annually.

The NRC study was sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, National Science Foundation, and U.S. Department of Energy.

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Last Updated June 19, 2012