When we think of scientists, most of us picture professionals working in labs or in university settings. But how did these people get to become scientists? They were born into the world like everyone else and could have selected from a myriad different career paths. The evidence does not suggest that scientists necessarily have children who become scientists. Thus the reality is that “new” scientists come from the general public fortuitously, and this reality is often unappreciated.
Many researchers and institutions devoted to motivating the next generation, including for example, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a national non-profit concerned with supporting “profoundly gifted students”, stress the importance of exposing youngsters to the latest scientific thoughts and discoveries through the internet and other sources. The public availability of current, up-to-date scientific and technical information is essential in this regard and the benefits of its availability are tremendous.
The Department of Energy has made a formidable contribution to the advancement of the scientific and technological knowledge frontier. In particular, DOE sponsors more basic and applied scientific research in the physical sciences than any other U.S. federal agency and all of this is made possible by the taxpayer.
Additionally, in the March 2011 Federal Laboratory Technology Transfer Summary Report to the President and the Congress, it was noted that in FY09 across the federal government there were over 4,400 new inventions of which 33% were from DOE; 1,500 new patents issued with 35% from DOE; and over 2,000 new patent applications of which 44% were from DOE.