House hearing recognizes role of basic research in recovery

In early July, the House Budget Committee, whose role is to oversee the entire budget process and watch federal spending from a 30,000-foot view, held a virtual hearing looking at the role federal support for research and development can play in ameliorating three crises—systemic inequality, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the current economic downturn—facing the United States. Witnesses at the hearing were Sudip Parikh, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); Paul Romer, a professor at New York University and co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences; Deborah Wince-Smith, president and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness; and Willy Shih, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School.

While this does not sound like a riveting hearing, the discussion had important news for the basic research community in the United States. In comments opening the hearing, committee chair Representative John Yarmuth (D- KY) said, “Experts have stressed the importance of aggressive, responsible, and strategic investments to our recovery from COVID-19 and the economic fallout. Aside from the obvious—like developing vaccines and treatments for COVID-19—federal R&D investments would also help spur an inclusive recovery, boost regional economies, and put Americans back to work.”

Both the witnesses and the committee members all acknowledged the important role federally funded research will play in returning the U.S. economy to what it was the day before the nation stopped. AAAS’s Parikh suggested that science and engineering, along with being important tools for solving the pandemic, can also address other national problems, such as climate change, and provide an evidence base for the future policy decision making that will be necessary to restart the national economy.

The universal recognition that federally funded basic research has an important role to play in the revival of the U.S. economy should serve as a comforting note to the science community.

To read witness testimony and watch the hearing, go to

About the Author:

Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: