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03/23/2020 - The Future of Science

Bob Conn stands in the Fred Kavli Auditorium at the Endless Frontier event Bob Conn, president and CEO of The Kavli Foundation, delivers remarks at The Endless Frontier event in the Fred Kavli Auditorium at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

In 1945, a prescient report entitled Science: The Endless Frontier was released and served as the guiding force for science and innovation in our country for decades. The architect of this report was Vannevar Bush, an engineer, inventor and science administrator who was the head of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II. Vannevar Bush had both a vision and a sense of urgency for creating a blueprint for how science should be done in America – and in service to the economic health and prosperity of its people and the scientific enterprise. It has been 75 years since our nation has had a comprehensive, long-term and visionary discussion about the future of science. The Kavli Foundation, and our partners at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, California Council on Science and Technology and the Moore, Simons and Sloan Foundations, are convening discussions about the future of science. 

Science: The Endless Frontier led to the development of the modern American research university, the National Science Foundation, and was the intellectual architecture for higher education, basic research and science, engineering and medical research in the U.S. The report also helped form critical institutions and shaped much of our science policy from post-World World II through the end of the Cold War. A lot has changed since that time – not only with our science policies, but also with how science is conducted today. It is radically different than 75 years ago. 

Recognizing these changes, and the necessity to look (once again) at the long-term future of science in our country, a number of leaders from academia and philanthropy to government and civic science gathered at the National Academies of Science for the first of these discussions. Participants called for urgent action in planning and funding. Opening remarks were made by Marcia McNutt, president of the academies, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Lamar Alexander and MIT President Raphael Reif, to name a few. Talks and conversations ranged from the evolving scientific research enterprise and public engagement with science featuring Alan Alda, to new funding for new challenges including a talk about America’s unique advantage from our foundation president, Bob Conn. The day closed with a lively discussion on basic research to innovation, with special remarks from Simon Johnson, an economist and author of the book Jump-Starting America, who called for doubling federal support for research in our country. Complementing his remarks was Norm Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, who said “before we figure out where we are going we need to figure out where we are.” He gave a brief assessment of four related assets to innovation: knowledge capital, human capital, financial capital and an ecosystem that is unbeatable to innovation.

More videos and resources about the event, including the agenda and a full list of speakers, can be found on the NAS website. More events discussing the future of science will take place throughout the country later this year and The Kavli Foundation will continue to share information and support these efforts. 

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