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Europe is also aggressively vying for bragging rights as numero uno in neutron physics, synchrotron light research and X-ray free-electron laser capabilities. These phrases may sound arcane to the lay reader, but they have profound meaning for scientists intent on producing new materials and pharmaceuticals, improving energy efficiency, pinning down the structure of biological macromolecules, diagnosing diseases — the list is far too long to enumerate completely. And if Europe becomes the go-to place for such research, the innovation, jobs and economic benefit that it accrues will not be America’s to harvest.
In the case of physics, Europe’s claim to top billing is reflected in scientific publication data. The American Physical Society is one of the leading publishers of physics research, and its set of Physical Review journals attracts contributors worldwide. Today, according to the latest APS data, for every two published articles from North America, there are about three from Europe.
So while Congress marches toward yet another continuing resolution that will bake last year’s sequester cuts into next year’s budget pie, our international scientific competitors can only applaud our political ineptitude.
Michael S. Lubell is a professor of physics at the City College of the City University of New York and director of public affairs of the American Physical Society. He writes and speaks widely about scientific research and science policy.