November 8, 2005 4:00 AM PST

Research money crunch in the U.S.

NEW YORK--An outspoken group of information and communications technology innovators is worried that the United States is falling behind the rest of the world in technological innovation because fewer dollars are being allocated to long-term research.

At a symposium here last week put on by the Marconi Society, technology researchers and scientists gathered to honor two of colleagues: Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, and Claude Berrou, co-inventor of turbo codes, which are used in 3G mobile telephone standards.

At the two-day event, attendees voiced concern over the state of technology research in the United States.

"I think we are in trouble," said Leonard Kleinrock, professor of computer science at the University of California at Los Angeles and creator of the basic principle of packet switching. "Years ago, people took a long-range view to research. There was high-risk research with the potential for big payoffs. That's no longer the case."

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Federico Faggin's
chip shot

Building the world's first microprocessor.

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The Web we fund?
Leonard Kleinrock on following the money.

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Putting research funds to work
Inventor Robert Lucky on 21st century realities.

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What's driving R&D?
Inventor Claude Berrou on market influences.

For much of the 20th century, major breakthroughs in technology came from large research laboratories like AT&T's Bell Laboratories, Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) , and IBM's Watson Research Center.

These research facilities operated much like national laboratories, making their discoveries and innovations available to anyone for modest license fees. Many of the inventions and discoveries at Bell Labs, for example, were first used commercially outside the Bell system and benefited the nation as a whole.

The labs are still around, but some experts say the labs conduct basic research on a much smaller scale than they used to.

In the early 1960s, the U.S. government started pouring money into information technology and communications research. It formed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to fund high-risk, high-reward research. One of the greatest developments to come out of this research was the Internet, which started out as a research project to develop a communications network for the U.S. military.

For years following the creation of DARPA, innovation in U.S. communications technology grew substantially under government-funded research. Today, DARPA and the National Science Foundation fund a large portion of the academic IT research in this country, say research experts.

Flat U.S. investment
But some of the engineering legends attending the Marconi Society event say the nation is facing a crisis, as industry-run research withers and government spending is slashed. Much of today's most important and long-range research is moving to Asia and Europe, which could have a significant impact on the U.S. economy as well as national security, they argue. The reason appears simple: The U.S. government is not increasing its investments in science.

Federal spending on scientific research has remained flat for several years. President Bush's budget request for 2006 proposes spending $132 billion on scientific research, which is roughly the same as the previous year, according to the nonprofit American Association for the Advancement of Science. A large proportion of the available funds have been allocated to science related to defense and counterterrorism, the AAAS has said.

"The government isn't stepping up to the plate," said Robert Lucky, Marconi Society chairman and former director of Bell Laboratories. "We're eating our seed corn."

Others in the technology community have echoed these sentiments. Last month, the National Academies, a group of institutions established to provide Congress with advice on science and health policy, urged the U.S. government

CONTINUED: "We're eating our seed corn"…
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Greed and Ignorance
The greed of the war industry that uses what scientific investment we do have for more killing machines. Corporate and governmental ignorance, that thinks we can continue to sap the talent of other countries instead of investing in our own citizenry. Just look how well it worked in the UK.
Posted by Mister C (423 comments )
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Yeah, and the sky is falling too
Funny that articles like this always use the phrase "Falling behind" without bothering to mention exactly which countries out there are zooming ahead of us, doing the wise, sage-like long-term research that we're supposedly too greedy to do. Who is it? Bangladesh? Panama? Benin? France? (LOL)

"Falling behind" refers to relative position, not that any journalists seem capable of understanding that. Those of you younger than about 35 might not realize that everyone knew we were falling hopelessly behind the fearsome Japanese in the late 80's, becuase we were too greedy and pinheaded to develop the analog HDTV that every news reporter knew we absolutely needed.

I've been hearing this nonsense my whole adult life. Somehow we seem to get by better than the rest. Those on the receiving end will always want more money.

Just for fun I'd like to hear a researcher complain that he's being showered with too much cash, and that we're in danger of geeting too far ahead of other countries.
Posted by MikeDson (50 comments )
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What, me worry?
And if you are over 50 you may have heard of Fisher Electronics or maybe Mcintosh Stereo, both US companies that made some of the finest Stereo equipment available. How about Ampex, they developed the VCR. U.S. companies are now just bit players in the consumer electronics market. When I think of high quality car stereo, RCA is the name that jumps to my mind.

What happened? We should own those markets. In the early 70's there were hundreds of thriving U.S. electronics companies. By the end of the 80's they were all gone (along with their well paying jobs).

You have been hearing it all your life because it is true. When I was a kid in the fifties everyone bragged about Americans having the highest standard of living in the world. No one talks that way any more because we are falling further behind every year. What happened to one parent working and the other taking care of the kids. Fifty years ago 1 wage earner could support a family but not anymore. The sad truth is it takes 2 good incomes to be middle class in America today. How many kids still live at home well into their 20's and 30's because they just can't make it on their own.

It may look good on the surface but many people are in hock right up to their necks. Miss a couple of paychecks and they are done. We may get by better then India or China or Mexico but what about Europe (except for the UK which is where we are headed). Who comes to this country anymore? The Einsteins, Plancks, etc. I don't think so. It is primarily 3rd worlders.

While it may be true we spend a lot on research compared to the UK the majority is military related. And who is getting our advanced degrees? At last count more then half were going to people with at least one parent who is foreign born. To answer your question "exactly which countries out there are zooming ahead of us"? Just about everyone including China, India, Europe, Taiwan etc. If you would care to investigate there is a real good article from the National Academy of Sciences, located here:
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So the next time you pick up some piece of high-tech equipment look on the back and see where it was made and then tell me if you think the sky is falling or are we just living in a fog.
Posted by Mister C (423 comments )
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Government spends far more here
than in any European country, and even Europe as a whole spends a tiny fraction of what researchers get here.

Coming from the UK, where we'd be lucky if the government spent a few million on R&#38;D projects for public benefit, I find it amazing the amount public research projects get here.

Even private industry get's very little in the way of handouts from European governments, personally I think researchers ought to count there blessings in this country.

132 billion dollars is probably 132 times the amount the entire continent of Europe spends.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
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