SCIENCE:

Obama vows to uphold funding, 'integrity' of review process against 'political maneuvers'

President Obama today promised to fight to adequately invest in research and innovation and ensure the nation continues to follow an evidence-based scientific review process.

"In all the sciences we have to make sure that we are supporting the idea that they aren't subject to politics; they are not skewed by an agenda ... that we make sure we go where the evidence leads us," Obama said in remarks to the National Academy of Sciences in honor of its 150th anniversary.

Maintaining the "rigorous review system" for scientific research while ensuring the government is being effective in its investments in projects during an era of tight budgets is important, Obama said.

But above all, government and scientific leaders need to "make sure [research] does not fall victim to political maneuvers," he added.

"A fidelity to facts and truth and a willingness to follow where the evidence leads," as well as "restless curiosity and boundless hope" embodied in the NAS, Obama said, gives him confidence that the United States can tackle global challenges like climate change.

"I say that not just out of nationalistic pride ... but it is also because no one does it better than we do" when scientific research is adequately funded and supported, Obama said.

The NAS is a private, nonprofit society of distinguished scholars established by Congress and President Lincoln in 1863. The NAS, which includes the National Research Council, is charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. More than 6,000 experts volunteer their time every year to research for the NAS, which receives no appropriations from Congress.

Obama said his eventual goal is to provide investments in science and technology not seen "since the height of the space race," building on grand challenges such as the SunShot Initiative to lower the price of solar to $1 per watt, developing affordable cars that run on natural gas and electricity, and the latest announcement to map the human brain.

"As long as I am president, we are going to continue to invest in the big ideas generated by you and your institutions," Obama said. "I am committed to it because that is what makes us special and who we are.

"That sense of wonder and that sense of discovery has practical application, but I believe it also nurtures what is best in us."

The president also said he is committed to supporting the next generation of scientists and including more women and minorities in science and math as well. Obama attended the latest science fair at the White House last week, an event he started in his first term in office, and said he was amazed at the projects, including his favorite -- an algae biofuel experiment conducted under a student's bed.

"They leave me with extraordinary optimism. They leave me hopeful. They leave me with a smile on my face," Obama said. "We don't want our kids just to be consumers of the amazing things that science generates -- we want to make sure they are producers as well."

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