Recently, OSTP Director John Holdren was among a plethora of distinguished contributors to “Global Reset,” a special edition of SEED magazine. Dr. Holdren wrote about President Obama’s relentless support for science and technology initiatives and the President’s appreciation of the immensely positive consequences they can have for our Nation.
President Obama understands with crystal clarity the indispensable role that science, technology, and innovation (ST&I) will need to play if the great challenges of our time are to be successfully met.
He has communicated this understanding with uncommon eloquence, but even more important, he has put his understanding of the importance of ST&I into practice in the appointments he has made, the budgets he has proposed and pushed through, and the policy initiatives he has launched.
Additionally, Dr. Holdren’s essay focuses on general science policy in the Obama Administration, including STEM education, international collaboration, research and development budgets, and a number of pressing ST&I challenges.
No less important is recognition by the President and his ST&I appointees that meeting the practical challenges listed above will depend on adequate investment in and care for the cross-cutting, foundational “pillars of progress” in ST&I, notably:
- the quality of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and training, from pre-school to grad school to lifelong learning;
- the capabilities, financial health, and productivity of the institutions that conduct most of society’s fundamental research, namely our research universities and national and private laboratories;
- the capacity and robustness of infrastructures for information/communication, transportation, and energy;
- our competence in space, which is invaluable not only for expanding our understanding of the universe and other realms of basic science but also for its roles in communications, geopositioning, and Earth observations for a multitude of purposes;
- an economic and political environment that promotes and rewards research, entrepreneurship, and innovation while also providing appropriate protections for the public’s interests in health, safety, personal and national security, privacy, and so on;
- and encouragement and support for a variety of partnerships—across academic disciplines, governmental bodies, the public and private sectors, and nations around the world—in order to combine skills and insights, share costs and risks, engage all the stakeholders, undertake projects at the needed scale, and optimally distribute solutions and benefits.