January 28, 2014

AGU’s State of the Union Wishlist

Posted by Nick Saab

Written By Nick Saab, AGU Public Affairs

Every January, the president of the United States appears before Congress and the nation to reflect on the previous year and to set forth his agenda for the next 365 days. As President Obama embarks on his fifth State of the Union, the American Geophysical Union has put together a list of critical issues that should be included in tonight’s address.

As the United States slowly emerges from the recession, a re-prioritization of funding for the sciences is crucial to strengthening our economy. It is difficult to quantify the dollar figure that scientific innovation has contributed to the United States, but we know that the return on investment for agencies like NASA has consistently been a net gain many times over. The fact that federal funding made possible the internet, which now represents 4.7 percent of the U.S. GDP, the improvement of 24-hour temperature forecasts, and even the creation of individual companies like Google, cannot be overlooked. Committing to funding the sciences is crucial for the American economy to retain its global competitiveness. In a world where other nations have discovered that the surest way to prosperity is scientific and technological advancement, we can only hope that the president doubles down and places his priorities for economic growth in the National Science Foundation, NASA, Department of Energy laboratories, and the numerous other federal science agencies.

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Retention of foreign students who earn STEM degrees in the United States is a corollary to R&D investment, and a challenge the president must address. We have top-notch STEM teaching institutions, yet the demand for jobs in those fields, most of which rely on Federal grant funding, greatly outnumber the supply.  After foreign students have completed their studies in the U.S., they are either quickly shown the door due to our immigration policies or leave of their own volition to greener pastures. In both scenarios, they end up competing against the U.S. using the high-caliber education American investment provided. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

Tackling the consequences of and methods for preventing climate change must be done sooner rather than later, for which the president’s recent Climate Action Plan lays the groundwork.  We hope that the president will lay out a science-based agenda for swift action befitting the magnitude of the climate challenge, and that both the Administration and Congress will follow through on that agenda. With the National Climate Assessment, a quadrennial federal report due this summer, we are hopeful that the powers of outreach the president was able to utilize in his election campaigns will be on display in the efforts to increase awareness of this critical issue.

The State of the Union will air on all network channels beginning at 9:00 P.M. EST, and we will be live tweeting the entire address at @AGUSciPol and using the hashtag #scienceisessential. Watch here for additional posts with our reaction to the president’s speech and an in-depth look at how our wish list fared.

See you tonight!