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Obama says more money

President promises rise in research and development funds.

President Barack Obama has bolstered his already-lofty promises to US scientists, saying he wants the country's research and development budget to rise to 3% of gross domestic product (GDP).

That would be an increase of roughly US$46 billion annually from today's investment, which is nearly 2.7% of GDP. "This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history," Obama said on 27 April at the National Academy of Sciences' annual meeting in Washington DC.

John Marburger, who was science adviser to former president George W. Bush, called 3% of GDP a "healthy target" but said the trick will be getting industry on board. "The federal government can't do all of that by itself," he says. "Remember, two-thirds of that figure is coming from the private sector, and we're in the middle of a recession." The public sector contributes roughly one-third of US research and development investment.

“We have to deliver. ”

It remains to be seen whether Obama can deliver. In February, he and congressional leaders pushed through over $21 billion in science funding in their economic stimulus package. In his proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins in October, the president has requested $12.6 billion for the National Science Foundation, the energy department's Office of Science and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Obama called clean energy the current generation's "great project" and said that investment levels must be increased despite ongoing economic woes.

"We're now in a no-excuse environment," says J. Craig Venter, the genomics pioneer now working on sustainable energy issues. "We have to deliver.

This week Obama also named all 20 members of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, including Nobel-prizewinning chemist Ahmed Zewail, computational scientist David Shaw, plant geneticist Barbara Schaal and physicist S. James Gates.


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Remarks by the President at the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting


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Tollefson, J. Obama says more money. Nature 458, 1085 (2009).

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