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Obama Pledges 'Historic' Investment in Scientific Research

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Monday promised a major investment in research and development, with the goal of spending 3 percent of the nation's gross domestic product on scientific innovation. 

Obama made the announcement in a speech at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences. 

"I believe it is not in our character, American character, to follow -- but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development," Obama said. 

"We will not just meet but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race," he said. 

Obama said the investments he is proposing would lead to breakthroughs, such as solar cells as cheap as paint and green buildings that produce all the energy they consume. 

The pursuit of discovery a half century ago fueled the nation's prosperity and success, Obama told the academy. 

"The commitment I am making today will fuel our success for another 50 years," he said. "This work begins with an historic commitment to basic science and applied research." 

Obama said his administration would double the budget of key agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 

"At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science. That support for research is somehow a luxury at a moment defined by necessities. I fundamentally disagree," Obama said. 

"Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been," he said.