Keep America strong through funding of scientific research
An opinion piece by Jessica Winter
At the age of 35, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It has been almost six years since that fateful day—and my life has been forever changed, and so has my perspective on the role of science in our society. As a professor in bioengineering at The Ohio State University (OSU) whose research is focused on cancer, I am uniquely aware that my survival has resulted from therapies discovered by government-supported research. Such progress in therapies would be in jeopardy if Congress were to implement the Trump Administration’s proposed budget cuts to science.
Facing the same disease that I have studied made me want to “pay it forward.” While undergoing treatment, I developed a nanoparticle diagnostic with several colleagues that matches cancer patients to therapies, allowing patients to become fully informed about the best possible treatments for their disease.
As associate director of the Center for Emergent Materials at Ohio State, I am blessed with opportunities to pursue scientific research in a multidisciplinary environment that includes physicists, chemists and engineers. This new diagnostic therapy would not have been possible without the support of federally funded research, including several grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), a federal agency lauded for its gold-standard, scientific peer-review process.To keep our nation on the cutting edge of scientific breakthroughs, we must support sustained and robust funding of long-term scientific research.
My U.S. senator, Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and his colleagues demonstrated that they understand the key role science plays in our society when they voted last April to increase the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science fiscal year 2017 budget by 8 percent. But President Trump recently indicated there would be cuts in the fiscal year 2018 federal budget. As details on the spending plan become clearer in the coming weeks, I urge Portman and other members of Congress to follow their earlier wise decision and provide the Office of Science the support they have said it deserves.
The Office of Science research investments have yielded a wealth of dividends, including the development of lithium ion batteries for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles; advanced sensors that help law enforcement personnel detect trace quantities of nuclear, chemical and biological agents and explosives; and X-ray diagnostics of computer chips and other high-tech materials. From aircraft designs to medical breakthrough, DOE, NSF and other scientific agencies have played an integral role in funding discoveries that drive the nation’s economy, strengthen national security, and improve quality of life.
Another reason to support scientific research: job creation. Federally funded scientific grants have not only led to the employment of university researchers, but also to new companies, creating high-paying jobs right here in Ohio and across the country.
Funding cuts would stunt America’s growth and endanger our scientific leadership. From manufacturing to retail sectors, good jobs are tied to scientific research. Although we must tighten our fiscal belts during tough economic times, we must be strategic about decisions affecting federal funding, which have contributed to more than half of U.S. economic growth since World War II.
As Congress considers funding for fiscal year 2018, I urge Portman, and all members of Congress, to vote for the robust funding of scientific research by supporting increases in the federal science budget. Our country is stronger because of early investments in science – the backbone of our innovation economy. My survival makes this apparent to me – and every other cancer survivor – each day.
Dr. Jessica Winter is Professor of William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering. Note: These opinions are solely Dr. Winter's own and do not represent those of the Ohio State University, The Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, or any other agency that she is affiliated with in any way.