Program Aims To Galvanize, Fund Science And Engineering

I was listening to a recent TED Talks podcast featuring Jason Pontin. Pontin is the editor in chief and publisher of MIT Technology Review. The topic: Can technology solve our big problems. He starts out describing Buzz Aldrin's descent out of Apollo 11 on July 21, 1969. He notes that NASA spent $180 billion in today's funds and it was a collaboration of 20,000 companies, universities and government agencies. Why did the United States do this? The short answer: In 1962 John F. Kennedy stirred a nation by saying "We choose to go to the moon not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard."

Pontin's talk went on to note that there is no galvanizing contest like the cold war and there is no political leader who can rally the troupes as effectively as Kennedy. He says the solutions of the future will be harder won.

It's no secret that in the years following the moon landing the United States started to atrophy as a technology leader. Sure, we still innovate. But not like we did. Pontin is right -- the future will be harder won.

But don't count the U.S. out. Programs like the Invest Again campaign — designed to protect and promote increased federal funding for the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields — are popping up to inspire dreams and innovation. According to a press release from the grass-roots organization, the campaign will put scientists front and center in national media to explain the most important issues facing our nation, and how to move the U.S. ahead with a vision for the future.

Eleiza Braun, co-director of Invest Again, said: “We launched Invest Again because it’s time to reassert our global leadership and dedication to innovation, so that our children are inspired by science and our economy can benefit from advancements in STEM fields.  There’s a reason that NASA generated seven dollars of economic output for every dollar the agency spent.  Exploration is good for morale and innovation is good for the bottom line.”

The release goes on to state that federal funding for basic research and development has been cut to historic lows and has decreased by 16% since 2010, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Certainly there are myriad initiatives to rouse innovation. The key is getting behind them and making the collective STEM voice heard. Letting the voice inspire and spur action and give goosebumps to women, men and children so they may be moved to change the future – not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

Go forth and conquer.

Traci-bio-photo.jpgTraci Purdum is Chemical Processing's Senior Digital Editor and inspired dreamer of the future.