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美国不再领先全球研发

2008-06-04
美国不再领先全球研发?
英国《金融时报》丽贝卡•奈特(Rebecca Knight)波士顿报道
2008年6月4日 星期三
一群杰出科学家6月3日发布的报告显示,除非各大院校和联邦机构对年轻科学家和变革性研究加大投资力度,否则美国就可能失去在技术创新领域的优势地位。

此项研究由美国艺术与科学学院(American Academy of Arts and Sciences)赞助。报告表示,资金紧张已给职业生涯刚刚起步的科学家带来了研究预算方面的压力。

报告还批评了联邦机构反对科学家冒险、扼杀可能带来全新技术的研究的“保守思想”。

参与报告撰写的霍华德•休斯医学研究所(Howard Hughes Medical Institute)所长托马斯•切赫(Thomas Cech)表示:“当一种商品稀缺时,人们会出于各种理由变得更加保守。如果这种商品是研究资金,人们就会更不愿意支持高风险的工作。”

美国是世界研发领域的领头羊,但有迹象显示,它的地位正在下滑。美国乔治亚理工学院(Georgia Institute of Technology)去年的高技术指标研究显示,美国的高科技产品出口排名第二,落后于中国。

美国大多数生物医学研究的资金来自美国国立卫生研究院(National Institutes of Health),但三年来,该研究所的预算一直没有变过,如果经过通胀因素调整,甚至还有所下降。

1998年至2003年之间,美国国会将国立卫生研究院的预算提高了一倍,从137亿美元增至271亿美元。在科学经费增加的鼓励下,选择医学研究为职业的年轻人数量也增加了。但2004年,白宫呼吁削减经费,以抵消税收减免和赤字不断上升的影响。科学家数量的飞升和预算的减少,造成了资金供需的严重失衡。

这在一定程度上解释了,为什么今天国立卫生研究院首次获得基础研究资金的人平均年龄为42.4岁,而1980年为37.2岁,1990年为39岁。

切赫表示,这对正在创建自己的实验室的年轻科学家最为不利。“审查他们的资金申请的专门小组,同时还在审查有现成实验室的更资深科学家的申请,而且这些科学家有稳定的生产力,”他表示。“这可能是(初级研究人员)的整个科学生涯中最有创造力的时期之一,但他们却缩在办公室里面,疯狂地打着资金申请。”
译者/董琴
阅读本文章英文,请点击 SCIENTISTS CRITICISE CONGRESS FOR LOW RESEARCH FUNDING

SCIENTISTS CRITICISE CONGRESS FOR LOW RESEARCH FUNDING
By Rebecca Knight in Boston
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
America's dominant position in technological innovation is at risk unless universities and federal agencies invest more in young scientists and transformative research, according to a report released on the 3 June by a group of prominent scientists.

The report, sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, says tight funding has squeezed research budgets for scientists early in their careers.

The report is also critical of “conservative thinking” in federal agencies that discourages scientists from taking risks, and stifles research that may lead to radically new technologies.

“When a commodity is scarce, people for whatever reason become more conservative,” said Thomas Cech, president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, who worked on the report. “When the commodity is research funding, people are more reluctant to support highly adventuresome work.”

The US is the world leader in research and development but there are signs its status is slipping. According to last year's Georgia Institute of Technology study of high-technology indicators, the US ranks second to China in export of high-technology products.

For three years, the budget for the National Institutes of Health, which funds most biomedical research in the US, has been flat or, adjusting for inflation, down.

Between 1998 and 2003 Congress doubled the NIH's budget from .7bn to .1bn. Encouraged by the increase in science spending, the number of young people choosing careers in medical research also rose. But in 2004 the White House called for reduced spending to compensate for tax cuts and a rising deficit. The surge in the number of scientists, coupled with the budget crunch has created a huge imbalance between supply and demand for grants.

This partly explains why the average age for first-time recipients of the NIH's primary research grants today is 42.4, compared with 37.2 in 1980 and 39 in 1990.

This has been most detrimental to those young scientists who are starting their own laboratories, according to Mr Cech. “Their grants are being reviewed by panels that are also looking at grants from more senior scientists with established labs, who have a steady stream of productivity,” he said. “This could be one of the most creative times in the [junior investigator's] entire scientific career, but instead they're squirrelled away in their offices furiously typing up grant proposals.”

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