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In July, 1945, Vannevar Bush addressed a report to President Franklin D. Roosevelt arguing that basic research needed to become a priority supported by the federal government. As an engineer, businessman and government administrator, Bush recognized that each of these three worlds—academia, industry and government—plays a vital role in promoting scientific innovation. Crucially, he said, the government’s role should to provide the guiding vision for basic research, seed the related effort and sustain its pool of talent.

Bush’s report led to the establishment of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and its legacy ultimately carried over to another federal agency that would become known  for innovative research and development: NASA, which landed humans on the moon. In celebrating the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, it is timely to reflect upon the current research landscape and the enduring role of federal support and direction.

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