The United States has long been recognized as one of the most scientifically productive countries on Earth. But when you're discussing progress, where you've been is not nearly as important as
a) where you are today, and
b) where you stand to go from there
What this presentation from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson makes abundantly clear is that America's scientific future is shaping up to look very different from its scientific past. "This is the changing landscape of the world," he explains. "As everyone else understands the value of innovative investments in science and technology in ways that [the U.S.] does not, we slowly fade."
When the Supercommittee responsible for trimming 1.5-trillion dollars from the U.S. federal budget failed to reach an agreement last November, it triggered a 1.2-trillion dollar budget-slashing measure that threatens to place the future of scientific research on even rockier terrain than it already is.
Cuts to science, said Michael Lubell (head of public affairs with the American Physical Society) in an interview with io9, will be discouraging for young scientists trying to establish themselves:
The message to students and graduate students will be: if you want to be a scientist, you might want to look at other countries - and that would not be good.
...If you want a high-tech work force, if you want science that drives the economy, [you must increase science funding]. If you don't, the country will suffer. We will not be innovative. We will not be building a better America. And that is what we're looking at.
It's unsettling to think about how strongly Lubell's sentiments resonate with those of Tyson's, especially when you realize that Tyson delivered the above presentation last May — almost two months before the joint Supercommittee on deficit reduction was even created.