Chris Mooney just published a brilliant essay in Seed about the future of innovation in the United States and the leadership required to ensure that we, as a nation, restore our focus on it. It’s six pages long, and you absolutely need to read it. Here’s a taste:

“The next president of the United States of America will control a $150 billion annual research budget, 200,000 scientists, and 38 major research institutions and all their related labs. This president will shape human endeavors in space, bioethics debates, and the energy landscape of the 21st century.

“Setting the right policies for science in the US will prime and drive the nation’s economic engine for decades to come. At a time when economists agree that innovation fuels growth, the US finds itself importing more high-tech goods from the rest of the world than it is exporting. More low-tech than high-tech jobs are being created in this country; other nations, like South Korea, Singapore, and China, are producing a far higher percentage of natural science and engineering graduates. Bill Gates expresses this broad concern when he says: “When I compare our high schools with what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our workforce of tomorrow.”

“Indeed, the economic centrality of science and technology overlaps inextricably with international affairs. In the coming decades, China and India in particular are forecast to grow into major centers for innovation. China, powered by a leadership determined to achieve scientific advancement, is now second only to the US in its annual investment in research and development. India, meanwhile, is churning out 2.5 million science and engineering graduates per year. To successfully guide the US into the 2010s, the next president must understand the trends that are transforming these nations into key US competitors and have a plan for keeping pace with them—while simultaneously avoiding shallow nationalistic rivalry. The advancement of science is not a zero sum game.”

This is not a question of being Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, Christian or whatever. Understanding the value of providing educational resources that will enable the kids of today to someday innovate their way out of the economic, social, scientific, educational and cultural holes we are digging for them, shouldn’t take a whole lot of brainpower or bandwidth. The stakes are simple: Invest in science, research, engineering, critical thinking, innovation, and education in general, or watch this country turn into some version of this.

Where Chris’ piece shines is in its ability to connect the dots between effective leadership in the Oval Office, intelligent national scientific and educational policies, innovation… and economic growth. Great stuff and well worth the read.

Read it, and share it.

Have a great Tuesday everyone. 😉

image credit: orbitals b, by Jared Tarbell