Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. hosted a roundtable meeting with university presidents at the White House on Tuesday to draw attention to the $18-billion in stimulus money that has gone to academic research.
Mr. Biden called the research spending "among the most critical parts" of the stimulus effort, saying it was key to job growth and the nation's continued global competitiveness.
"Folks, this is where the future lies," he said. "Our economic future will grow from ideas that are incubating at universities. That's the breeding ground, and it always has been."
Mr. Biden said he was "always amazed" by criticisms of federal spending on research. "Some of our critics act like we've come up with some new social intervention," he said.
He contrasted that attitude with the approach of countries like India and China, where, he argued, leaders understand the need to invest in research.
"The rest of the world gets this, and we can't afford to lag behind," he said, adding, "we cannot afford to not rededicate ourselves to the work you guys around the table do."
The vice president promised a continued federal commitment to research, saying it was up to Washington to provide the "vision" and "seed money" to help universities "change the world."
Following Mr. Biden's remarks, the presidents of Purdue University and the University of Pennsylvania described how stimulus money was creating jobs in their states and financing breakthroughs in medical and energy research.
France Córdova, president of Purdue, said stimulus money had created or saved 200 full-time jobs and had contributed to 600 more. Purdue, which has received 174 awards of stimulus money totaling $130-million, is using the funds to study biofuels, among other things.
Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, said money from the stimulus legislation, formally the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, had created 1,100 jobs at the university, including 700 in research and 400 in construction. Some of those funds are being used to study the long-term neurological effects of antiretroviral drugs taken by HIV patients.
"The stimulus funding has created new knowledge and new jobs that are truly life-saving and life-improving," she said.
Four other university presidents—Ronald J. Daniels of the Johns Hopkins University, Elson S. Floyd of Washington State University, J. Bernard Machen of the University of Florida, and Mark G. Yudof of the University of California—attended the event, along with the heads of the Association of American Universities, Robert M. Berdahl, and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, M. Peter McPherson.