U.S. research excels at return on investment, A&M VP tells reporters

Man in suit gestures while sitting in front of microphone.

Image: Texas A&M University

Though nations like China may threaten to surpass the United States’ annual investment in research and development, they are unlikely to surpass America’s return on that investment, Texas A&M University Vice President for Research Glen Laine told science journalists at the National Press Club.

Laine joined representatives from several other top research institutions in a media briefing titled “All Things Research 2014.” The media roundtable session last week, sponsored by the Association of American Universities (AAU) and The Science Coalition, provided the top research officials from several institutions the opportunity to interact with key writers and their radio and television counterparts and spotlight some of the innovative and cutting-edge research being conducted at the top universities around the nation.

Nations like China tend to manage their scientific research from the top down, Laine said, with government hierarchy attempting to select research programs and to match them with selected scientists.

“Certainly here, if you take a faculty member and try to apply a top-down approach to research, it’s been historically unsuccessful,” Laine told the reporters. “So even though they are investing the money,  our system has a greater return on investment than they will have.”

Laine agreed with several fellow panelists who pointed out that federal investment in basic research is crucial to sustaining innovation and economic development. “Basic research provides the building blocks for all innovation,” Laine said later. “If we fail to adequately fund basic research, we are closing the door that leads to the scientific, medical and technological advancements that power our economy.”

Roundtable highlights can be viewed here.

Texas A&M, in conjunction with its associated agencies, ranks among the national leaders in research with an investment of more than $800 million with studies in hundreds of different fields.

Laine, who has been associated with Texas A&M for 30 years, was named Texas A&M’s vice president for research on Feb. 17 after serving as interim for nine months. He also serves as a Regents Professor and holder of the Wiseman Chair in Cardiology in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. He serves as director of the Michael E. DeBakey Institute for Cardiovascular Science and Biomedical Devices  and was associate dean for graduate studies for five years.

While continuing to teach, Laine has maintained extramural grant support for 35 years, generating approximately 150 publications in peer-reviewed basic science, medical, engineering, and educational journals along with approximately 200 abstracts. He is principal investigator on a 2013 Texas Emerging Technology Fund grant to link Texas A&M and the Texas Heart Institute in Houston through a cardiac research collaboration.

Laine received his doctorate in physiology and biophysics with a minor in biomedical engineering from Texas A&M’s College of Medicine. He has received the Association of Former Students’ Distinguished Achievement Award in Research and serves as a reviewer for 17 national journals and has been a member of study sections for several national funding agencies.