The Value of Chemical Research

Greetings and welcome to The Stuff of Life. My intention in creating this blog is to bring a sense of understanding and appreciation of chemistry and biochemistry research to the general public. These sciences are the foundation of many technologies that we rely on for our daily lives from new materials to computer technology to modern health. I hope you will discover the excitement and impact that research in these areas, and research being carried out right here in the Red River Valley, have on society.

For my inaugural post I thought I would talk about money. Many people ask me what is the value of public investment in science research. That is a hard question to answer as there are so many impacts on the economy from science funding. You may not realize that much of the federal research dollars that flow to NDSU and other research universities goes directly into the economy. Much of that money is used to pay students, technicians, staff members and faculty salaries. This money flows right into the local communities and stimulates the economy. Another aspect of the impact of federal research dollars is the generation of new understanding. Science can be very fundamental or very applied. Both are integral in advancing our understanding of the world and creating a better place for all of us. Fundamental science often gets criticized because it is not clear what the direct outcomes will be. Much of the research being done at the ground level may not pay off in our lifetime but without a solid foundation the whole of science would collapse. Thus it is critical that we continue to support fundamental science research.

What is the impact of science research investment on the taxpayer? Well, in one word – HUGE. The Council for Chemical Research has completed a two-phase study in 2001 and 2005 to estimate the payoff of federal R&D funding in chemical sciences.  You can read about it here:

The CCR study concluded that for every $1B invested in research, the chemical industry puts up another $5B. This results in 600,000 jobs, produces $400B in GNP and returns $8B to the federal government in taxes. That’s quite a return on investment!

Payoff of R&D Investment