Close to Home: Science and innovation deserve robust funding

At Hog Island Oyster Co., farmers collaborate with scientists from the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory to monitor ocean conditions, providing information for business decisions that directly affect the viability of the shellfish harvest. Improved understanding of changing ocean conditions enhances our ability to adapt our business, be leaders in our industry and contribute to a network of monitoring systems that maintains our leadership in ocean science around the world.

We couldn't have collaborated in this way without financial support from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. National investments like this by NOAA and other federal agencies are critical to scientific research, providing strong economic and societal benefits along with new knowledge. Scientific research is an enterprise that directly impacts the community, businesses and educational institutions in Northern California. U.S. investments in scientific and engineering research and development have created millions of jobs and improved state economies.

Despite these benefits, the budget proposal released by the White House seeks to walk away from these investments. For example, agencies such as NOAA, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation are recommended for cuts of 11-22 percent in the proposed White House budget.

For generations, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have supported continued investment in basic and applied research because they witnessed the profound and positive impacts that these investments have on our health, economy and global leadership. When considering the 2017-18 budget, we ask that Congress continue to uphold and protect its bipartisan support for investment in basic and applied scientific research. Across every industry and sector, investment in research and development provides clear opportunities for Americans and advances economic prosperity.

According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, while scientists and engineers only account for about 5 percent of the nation's workforce, they help create jobs across the rest of the economy. Scientists' discoveries and products extend far beyond the research laboratory, affecting people across the business sector - from designers to builders to consumers. Locally, investments by NOAA on our coast assist in the monitoring of harmful algal blooms, ocean temperatures and fisheries stocks. Monitoring by NOAA's Integrated Ocean Observing System, and our regional node, the Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System, serves as our “eyes on the ocean,” providing real time information on ocean temperatures, chemistry and biological conditions.

Research supported by NOAA's Sea Grant program has provided direct benefits and information to our coastal communities and builds partnerships between business owners and scientists, like us. The National Science Foundation provides support for basic research about the world around us - including improving our understanding of people, natural hazards, economics, ecosystems and even other worlds in our solar system. Similarly, investigations by the National Institutes of Health bolster knowledge on human health.

We ask our Northern California congressional representatives to support robust funding for science and to further strengthen our national commitment to investing in scientific research as they negotiate the 2017-18 federal budget.

Terry Sawyer is co-founder of Hog Island Oyster Co. Tessa Hill is a professor at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory. Eric Sanford and Brian Gaylord of the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab contributed to this commentary.

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