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Microsoft’s Jeannette M. Wing: Basic research is ‘the foundation of American prosperity and progress’

May 11, 2016 | Posted by Microsoft Research Blog

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Jeannette WingBy Allison Linn, Senior Writer, Microsoft
Photo credit: Scott Eklund/Red Box pictures

Jeannette M. Wing, Microsoft’s corporate vice president in charge of the company’s basic research laboratories, appeared Wednesday before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. She was speaking at a hearing on Leveraging the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise.

Wing spoke on behalf of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Committee on New Models for U.S. Science and Technology Policy, which was formed out of concern that America is increasingly losing ground to other nations in research and development.

In her testimony, Wing noted that basic research plays a central role in American innovation. This type of scientific study, which aims to advance our fundamental understanding of the world but does not have a specific goal or product, has led to major advances in fields including biotechnology, computer science and aerospace. That, in turn, has fueled considerable economic growth.

“I hope it is evident that while basic research may have no intended end goal, it is in fact the foundation of American prosperity and progress,” she said in written testimony.

Despite the clear benefits of basic research, Wing said the federal government’s investment in basic research has been slowly eroding over the past two decades. She said the United States’ total public and private investment in R&D continues to fall short of the national goal of totaling at least 3 percent of GDP, and it lags many other developed countries.

In her testimony, she urged lawmakers to take specific steps to ensure that Americans receive the maximum benefit from federal investments in research. She also offered lawmakers ways they could work to regain America’s standing as an innovation leader.

“Steady, sustainable increases in federal investment would go a long way to restoring American leadership,” she said.

Wing’s full testimony is available on Senate Commerce committee website.

Related:

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Allison Linn is a senior writer at Microsoft. Follow her on Twitter