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The Science Vote: Spending priorities differ

Federal funding for academic research — a major engine of innovation — has experienced an “unprecedented” two-year decline, the National Science Foundation reported in late August. Between fiscal years 2005 and 2007, Uncle Sam’s share of academic research funding fell from 64 percent to 62 percent. To take up the slack, universities turned to industry backers and others. Universities have also “tapped into their own endowment and gift funds,” according to a report in the Aug. 25 Inside Higher Ed.

“If we don’t fund basic research at a high enough level, over time it will catch up with us,” diminishing research payoffs in terms of ideas, products and spin-off technologies, says Samuel M. Rankin III. Associate executive director of the American Mathematical Society, in Washington, D.C., he’s also a spokesman for the Coalition for National Science Funding.

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