Congress is failing to deliver on its promise of billions more in research spending, threatening America’s long-term economic competitiveness

The battle to keep the government open may feel just like the crisis of the day. But these fights pose immediate and long-term risks for the U.S.

The federal government spends tens of billions of dollars every year to support fundamental scientific research that is mostly conducted at universities. For instance, the basic discoveries that made the COVID-19 vaccine possible stretch back to the early 1960s. Such research investments contribute to the health, wealth and well-being of society, support jobs and regional economies and are vital to the U.S. economy and national security.

Even if lawmakers avoid a shutdown and pass a budget, America’s future competitiveness could suffer because federal research investments are on track to be billions of dollars below targets Congress set for themselves less than two years ago.

I am a sociologist who studies how research universities contribute to the public good. I’m also the executive director of the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science, a national university consortium whose members share data that help us understand, explain and work to amplify those benefits.

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