Letter to the Editor

Science needs private support, as well

In his June 21 op-ed column, “The payoff from funding science research,” Fareed Zakaria made an excellent case for the benefits of government funding of science — it’s good for the economy and innovation.

Mapping the human genome is just one shining example of the power of basic research. The long list of benefits includes life-saving medicines, weather satellites and many of the devices we rely on every day, such as cellphones, computers and MRI machines. They all relied on discoveries that were made decades before their practical applications were conceived. That’s why investing in basic research is a top priority for our foundation — we see the extraordinary potential of scientific exploration.

Unfortunately, rising deficits have led to a steady decline in government funding for research, and the private sector needs to step in. To ensure that the United States continues to be a leader in scientific innovation, we need collectively to take more risks and emphasize long-term outcomes.

It’s time for private philanthropy to turn the tide for basic science — and this change must be about more than making grants. It will require strategic collaborations, new research initiatives and new funding sources. Together, we can cultivate the support of science to the benefit of all.

Steven J. McCormick, Palo Alto, Calif.

The writer is president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which is dedicated to advancing environmental conservation, scientific research and patient care.

 
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