R&D: Going Back to Basics
"How Science Can Create Millions of New Jobs," part of our Cover Story on the future of R&D (Sept. 7), called for a renewed focus on basic research, arguing that scientific innovation has historically spawned entire U.S. industries. Readers didn't disagree but pointed out what they saw as obstacles to reinvigorating such research—everything from failures in education to the demoralizing effect of having skilled jobs outsourced or given to H-1B visa holders.
The article fails to point to a root problem: Our educational system and our families are not doing a good job. Too many children are spoiled. Too many are given good grades for nothing stellar, and too few are inspired in science and math or have a strong work ethic.
With all the skilled jobs being offshored to India and China, why bother? No one wants to go into the sciences, rack up huge student-loan debts, and then see their jobs shipped overseas—or their salaries suppressed by H-1B visa holders.
Screen name: PJL
I disagree with the article's contention that one difficulty with basic research is that "science is a crapshoot." I have been involved with science and engineering in my 21-year career at Xerox (XRX). Both, especially engineering, can be made less risk-prone by the use of statistical experimental design. The biggest roadblock to employing this method of scientific research is the stubborn pride of the "high IQ" PhDs who think they know better.
The article says Bell Labs has shrunk from 30,000 employees in 2001 to 1,000 today, but this is an apples-to-oranges comparison. Only 1,500 of the 30,000 were researchers. In fact, at no time did Bell Labs ever employ more than 3,200 researchers. The chart accompanying the article implies that Bell Labs' innovations came to a halt in 1978, ignoring a string of recent inventions such as in optical networking and mobile broadband technology at the core of today's networks. The culture and focus on innovating in the Labs has not changed, nor has the caliber of research and researchers. What's more, research networks and partnerships greatly extend our reach and amplify our impact.
Jeong Kim, President
Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs (ALU)
MURRAY HILL, N.J.
Executive Pay: Send a Message to Overgenerous Boards
"CEO Pay: Is It Still Out of Sync?" (New Business, Sept. 7), about CEOs getting outrageous pay while their companies lose money and lay off workers, has spurred me to action. I'll be sure not to own the stock or buy the products of the companies mentioned. If others do likewise, maybe the companies' boards will attempt to align CEO compensation with good performance and responsible leadership.
Leverage Doesn't Always Pay
Regarding "Are Banks Playing It Too Safe?" (New Business, Sept. 7): Is there any evidence that banks obsessed with maximizing leverage generate better risk-adjusted returns than more conservatively managed banks? If so, I'd like to see it.
Interest Rate Sleight of Hand
Is Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke a magician ("Low Rates as Far as Bernanke Can See," New Business, Sept. 7)? Washington lends banks billions as he keeps interest rates at almost zero. Banks lend at much higher rates, making money hand over fist, then pay back the government with fanfare. My granddaughter could do this trick blindfolded.