How To Stay On Top

WASHINGTON — At a time when federal and state politicians seem happy to cut and reluctant or unable to increase spending on higher education, a long-awaited report from the National Research Council, the policy arm of the National Academies, argues that the country cannot maintain its position as a leader in research without sustained investment in its public and private universities.

The report, “Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nation’s Prosperity and Security,” is the result of a call from a bipartisan group of members of Congress, who asked the Academies in 2009 to come up with 10 actions the federal government, state governments, research universities, and others could take to “maintain the excellence in research and doctoral education needed to help the United States compete, prosper, and achieve national goals for health, energy, the environment, and security in the global community of the 21st century."

The report was framed as a follow-up to the Academies’ 2005 report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” which focused on steps the national government could take to ensure that the U.S. remained competitive in science and technology.

The 10 recommendations that compose the committee’s final report, released Thursday, are a mix of policy principles, such as revitalizing and redefining the partnership between the federal government, state governments, research universities, and businesses, as well as a handful of new proposals such as a federal “Strategic Investment Fund” through which states and institutions could receive matching funds from the federal government for new professorships and infrastructure improvements. In general, the report asks for a larger commitment from the state and federal governments in exchange for greater efficiency and more openness to collaboration with businesses on the part of universities.

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