President Merten Supports National ‘Innovation Summit’

Posted: May 16, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

George Mason President Alan Merten participated in a press conference last week in which Congressmen Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), and Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) announced a national conference on science, technology, trade, and manufacturing to be held in the fall in Washington, D.C.

Saying, “The time has come to sound the alarm,” Wolf expressed concern that there is a trend of fewer American scientists receiving patents, publishing scientific papers, and winning Nobel prizes. “Regardless of whether you categorize our current situation as a stall or in decline, there is general agreement that America’s dominance in science and innovation is slipping,” he stated.

Wolf and other representatives had worked to include language in the recently passed supplemental appropriations bill directing Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez to convene the conference. Wolf said he expected the secretary to work on developing the conference with groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers; AeA, a high-tech industry trade group; the Business Roundtable; the Council on Competitiveness; and the academic and scientific communities.

“Our hope is that the conference will bring together the nation’s best and brightest to help develop a blueprint for the future of American science and innovation,” Wolf said. “It also will look at where there has been slippage and why, and what needs to be done to reverse the trend.”

Wolf said he had recently written President George W. Bush to encourage him to triple the “innovation budget”—funds for federal basic research and development.

“I am concerned that with the current levels of federal investment in research and technology our country will fall victim to the fierce manpower competition we face from developing countries,” he wrote.

Last month, Merten attended a press conference called by Wolf and Ehlers announcing the introduction of legislation to forgive interest on undergraduate student loans for math, science, and engineering majors who agree to work five years in their field upon graduation. At that time, Merten said, “I congratulate our political leaders for this initiative, and I challenge other political, academic, and business leaders to make science and engineering education a national priority.”

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