Taylor Harvey (202) 224-4515
Wyden Statement at Finance Committee Hearing on Taxpayer-Funded Research
As Prepared for Delivery
A few key points to make this morning on taxpayer-funded research in America. First, our country is more entrepreneurial, our economy is stronger and our lives as Americans are better because our scientific community attracts so many of the world’s brightest minds. That is a strength to be protected – a part of our national character that must not be diminished.
Foreign-born scientists put Americans on the moon. They worked on the Manhattan Project. Nearly a third of all American Nobel laureates were born outside the U.S. Look back at 2016, when six U.S. based scientists won Nobel Prizes. All were born in other countries.
It goes without saying that individuals and governments outside the U.S. are going to want to chip away at our lead. That’s particularly true when it comes to scientific breakthroughs that lead to valuable IP and entrepreneurship. Academic institutions and other research organizations based in this country need to understand and respond to those concerns – just like federal agencies and private companies do.
But overreaching with barriers that turn away bright students or cut off lines of communication with scientists from other countries would do a lot more harm than good. And targeting Americans who happen to be descendants of recent immigrants is as bone-headed as it gets.
Dr. Alicia Carriquiry, Distinguished Professor at Iowa State University, put it this way: “Without foreign-born researchers, the entire system of higher education in the United States would collapse in a minute."
Later this morning, the Finance Committee will hear from Dr. Joe Gray of the Oregon Health & Science University. Nobody knows better than Dr. Gray how vitally important foreign-born researchers and international collaboration are to this country and our institutions. The U.S. would not be capable of scientific breakthrough without them – period.
Second, any breakthrough in medicine or technology ought to be cheered as long as it leads to better lives for Americans. And if the U.S. suspects that American IP or technology has been stolen, this nation has the power to do something about it.
Finally, while the committee examines this issue today, it’s also important to take a step back to look at the broader context of our commitment to scientific research.
When you take inflation into account, federal investments in science and research have steadily declined for decades. State investments in higher ed have also dropped, starving research universities of funding.
The quickest way to turn the lights out in health research laboratories across America would be to enact the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts to NIH.
And just a few months ago, the president also signed an executive order threatening to cut off research funding for universities over a baseless panic dealing with speech on campus. Fortunately, the order was toothless.
So when you take the broader view of threats to research in America, it’s clear the biggest danger comes from within, especially with an administration that often takes anti-science positions.
With respect to foreign threats, what’s true with private businesses and government agencies is true for research institutions. They need to take responsible steps to protect themselves and their work. That doesn’t mean closing the door to or placing undue burdens on the foreign-born students and scientists who make life changing discoveries together with Americans.
I want to thank our witnesses for joining the committee today, and I look forward to questions.
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