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From the Vice Provost for Research

Robert RichardsonThe state of research at Cornell remains vibrant and vital. I could discuss the remarkable new life science research buildings sprouting up on the campus, giving my usual upbeat report about this and other extraordinary research endeavors at Cornell. Instead, I would like to turn to an issue of significant national importance: the role of the research university in the nation’s economic health.

Last fall, I participated in a National Academies of Sciences Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century. We wrote a major report, Rising above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future (National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.). The report contains a detailed analysis of the degradation of the United States’ competitive position and some suggested remedies.

The report recommends actions that should be taken by U.S. industry and federal agencies, but much of the fundamental remediation needs to occur in our K-12 schools and universities. Our scientific workforce and teaching corps are woefully inadequate, and our university base for performing basic research is underfunded. Many thoughtful economists estimate that about half of U.S. economic growth since World War II has been the result of technological innovation following research. Without a significant renaissance in our own national ability to innovate, the United States is likely to fall further behind other nations.

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