Advancements in technology, from electronics to health care, all or in part came from federal funding.
“The origins of the technology and products that have made America the greatest nation in the world evolved from basic research conducted at America's universities and laboratories and funded by the federal government,” Yager said.
He added one in five medicines approved by the FDA today in the last 20 years originated from public sector researchers using federal funds.
“The success of these drugs, products and medical achievements just didn't happen by accident,” he said.
“For generations, the work and discoveries of scientists and researchers doing diligent work in America's universities and laboratories and largely funded with federal dollars happened because as a country, using government grants by the actions of our elected officials, we made financial investment decisions in support of basic research.”
However, in today's economic climate, Yager asked: Is America at risk of losing its global leadership status in discovery and innovation?
“Clearly, our nation's priorities have changed,” he said. “The U.S. share worldwide research, and development has fallen from 37 to 31 percent. And while nations, such as China and Japan, South Korea and countries in the European Union, are ramping up their investments in scientific research, U.S. funding science remains stagnant.”
The U.S. government spends $25 on treatment for every $1 it spends on finding a cure, he added.
When polled, two-thirds of Americans recognized the importance of biomedical innovation, he said, with 43 percent saying they would pay higher taxes if they knew the money would go to biomedical research.
However, Yager noted Congress knows less than 12 percent of voters actually know whether or not their member of Congress supported budget cuts or not.
“The truth is, too few of us are talking,” he said.
Universities need to have funding to do research.
“A lot of Americans think that most of our new drugs come from … pharmaceuticals. They don't. They come from America's universities,” Yager said.
In addition, many think medical devices come from companies. America's companies are not investing in R&D like they used to, he said.
Yager suggests writing to Congress, stopping by a Congressman's office or attending a local Congressional town hall meeting. Do not take brush-off answers, he said, but ask follow-up questions. Avoid asking questions that require a yes or no answer.
Lastly, Yager suggests inviting lawmakers to your facility because nothing can explain the importance of research like seeing it firsthand.
“You can have as good a government as you are willing to fight for or as bad as you're willing to tolerate,” he said.
For those who work at universities or for other governmental agencies, Yager explained that while you cannot lobby on behalf of your agency, you can talk about yourself.