Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bill Gates to Congress: Invest More in Science!

Bill Gates argues that we need to invest more in science-- otherwise we will not be competitive...

Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates told the House Science Committee Wednesday that America's "position as the global leader in innovation is at risk."

To keep its edge, the U.S. must improve math and science education, change immigration policies to allow more skilled foreigners to work here, increase federal funding for basic research, and make the research and development tax credit permanent, Gates said.

The committee invited Gates to testify to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding. Congress created the panel in March 1958 after the Soviet Union beat the United States into space by launching the Sputnik satellite.

"Today, with the rapid economic and technological advances of other countries, I fear we are now on the cusp of another Sputnik moment," said committee Chairman Bart Gordon, D-Tenn. "I fear that our country has coasted on the investments we made 50 years ago."

Fifty years from now, Gates said, "the U.S. may not have the same relative share of innovation" compared with the rest of the world, "but with the right policies, we can have the leading share."

Other countries are working to duplicate America's "magic formula" -- an entrepreneurial culture combined with great universities, he said.

"We're still the envy of the world," he said.

U.S. companies, however, face a shortage of scientists and engineers, and not enough American students are prepared for, or interested in, careers in these fields, he said. The U.S. should insist on higher standards in K-12 education and require three to four years of math in high schools, he said.

Enrollment by U.S. students in science and engineering programs increased in the late 1990s during the Internet boom, but has declined since then.

Now that the credit bubble has burst, "maybe some of the bright minds going into finance will go into science and engineering," Gates said.

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