INTRODUCTION

For decades, the United States has operated as a nation with few peers. As a result, Americans implicitly assume that the United States will prevail in any contest. But both national security and economic status in a global economy has relied primarily on technological superiority. The world is driven by processes and goods with a high technical content; and superiority, competitiveness, and progress rely upon a nation’s ability to muster a technically trained workforce. Based on data obtained from sources such as the World Bank, the National Science Foundation, the National Center for Education Statistics, the Council on Competitiveness, and others, there is growing evidence that U.S. dominance in this regard is eroding:

  • Centers of technological excellence,1advanced training,2 and entrepreneurial activity3 are rapidly spreading throughout the globe.

  • Thus, even the status quo for the United States represents a declining share of the global marketplace for people and ideas.4

  • Not enough U.S. students are choosing majors in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology to maintain this status quo, much less sustain global leadership.5,6

  • International testing shows that the United States ranks well behind other nations in the science, mathematics, engineering, and technology achievement of our citizens,7 and our production of science and engineering Ph.D.s.8,9

  • Technologies for counter-terrorism and homeland security are outcomes of earlier U.S. investments in science, technology, and education. Many of these technologies have been built upon the work of international scientists who immigrated to this country.10



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Envisioning a 21st Century Science and Engineering Workforce for the United States: Tasks for University, Industry and Government INTRODUCTION For decades, the United States has operated as a nation with few peers. As a result, Americans implicitly assume that the United States will prevail in any contest. But both national security and economic status in a global economy has relied primarily on technological superiority. The world is driven by processes and goods with a high technical content; and superiority, competitiveness, and progress rely upon a nation’s ability to muster a technically trained workforce. Based on data obtained from sources such as the World Bank, the National Science Foundation, the National Center for Education Statistics, the Council on Competitiveness, and others, there is growing evidence that U.S. dominance in this regard is eroding: Centers of technological excellence,1advanced training,2 and entrepreneurial activity3 are rapidly spreading throughout the globe. Thus, even the status quo for the United States represents a declining share of the global marketplace for people and ideas.4 Not enough U.S. students are choosing majors in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology to maintain this status quo, much less sustain global leadership.5,6 International testing shows that the United States ranks well behind other nations in the science, mathematics, engineering, and technology achievement of our citizens,7 and our production of science and engineering Ph.D.s.8,9 Technologies for counter-terrorism and homeland security are outcomes of earlier U.S. investments in science, technology, and education. Many of these technologies have been built upon the work of international scientists who immigrated to this country.10

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Envisioning a 21st Century Science and Engineering Workforce for the United States: Tasks for University, Industry and Government The United States has relied on importing talent on H1B visas when it has been unable to find the science and technological professionals at home.11 This practice has shielded the United States from experiencing a growing domestic shortage. Because the federal government relies heavily, though not exclusively, on the private sector for much of its research and development, federal and private sector science and engineering (S&E) workforce needs are necessarily intertwined. The question of responsibility for workforce planning therefore arises. Is it the federal government’s responsibility to step in and take action? If so, what action? This paper reviews options to manage and to mitigate the risks to U.S. technological advantage. 1   Michael E. Porter and Debra van Opstal. U.S. Competitiveness 2001: Strengths, Vulnerabilities and Long-Term Priorities [p. 35]. Washington, DC: Council on Competitiveness, 2001. Original Source: Michael E. Porter and Scott Stern. The New Challenge to America’s Prosperity: Findings from the Innovation Index. Washington, DC: Council on Competitiveness, 1999. 2   “The scale of doctoral programs has increased in several world regions, particularly Europe, Asia, and the Americas. This capacity building in doctoral S&E education is linked to national policies to develop an S&E infrastructure that more explicitly links universities to innovation and economic development.” (National Science Foundation. Science and Engineering Indicators 2002 [p. 2-41 & 2-43]. Arlington, VA: NSF, 2002. Available online: http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind02/start.htm). 3   “Foreign R&D expenditures for U.S. companies makes up 10.5 percent of all company-financed expenditures in 1997, and has grown in absolute dollars from 8 billion in 1989 to 14 billion in 1997.” U.S. Department of Commerce. Office of Technology Policy. Globalizing Industrial Research and Development [p. 35]. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1999. Original source: U.S. Department of Commerce. Bureau of Economic Analysis. U.S. Direct Investment Abroad: Operations of U.S. Parent Companies and Their Foreign Affiliates. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, annual b. 4   Declining indicators include: U.S. fraction of global R&D investment (Michael E. Porter and Debra van Opstal. U.S. Competitiveness 2001: Strengths, Vulnerabilities and Long-Term Priorities [p. 32]. Washington, DC: Council on Competitiveness, 2001. Original source: National Science Foundation. Science and Engineering Indicators 2000 [Figure 2-27]. Arlington, VA: NSF, 2001. Available online: http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind00/frames.htm); Fraction of worldwide peer-reviewed scientific papers authored by U.S. scientists (Michael E. Porter and Debra van Opstal. U.S. Competitiveness 2001: Strengths, Vulnerabilities and Long-Term Priorities [p. 33]. Washington, DC: Council on Competitiveness, 2001. Original Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002 CD-ROM.); Proportion of domestic population earning science and engineering degrees (Michael E. Porter and Debra van Opstal. U.S. Competitiveness 2001: Strengths, Vulnerabilities and Long-Term Priorities [p. 21]. Washington, DC: Council on Competitiveness, 2001. Original Source: NCES. International Education Indicators: A Time Series Perspective, 1985-95 [Tables 15-1 and 15-4]. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1999.); Number of practicing scientists and engineers in the U.S. (National Science Foundation. Science and

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Envisioning a 21st Century Science and Engineering Workforce for the United States: Tasks for University, Industry and Government     Engineering Indicators 2002 [Appendix Table 2-34]. Arlington, VA: NSF, 2002. Available online: http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind02/start.htm). 5   National Science Foundation. Science and Engineering Indicators 2002 [Appendix Table 2-18], Arlington, VA: NSF, 2002. Available online: http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind02/start.htm). 6   Michael E. Porter and Debra van Opstal. U.S. Competitiveness 2001: Strengths, Vulnerabilities and Long-Term Priorities [p. 21]. Washington, DC: Council on Competitiveness, 2001. 7   Ina V. S. Mullis, Michael O. Martin, Albert E. Beaton, Eugenio J. Gonzalez, Dana L. Kelly, and Teresa A. Smith. Mathematics and Science Achievement in the Final Year of Secondary School: IEA’s Third International Mathematics and Science Study [pp. 1-10]. Boston, MA: Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation, and Educational Policy, 1998 8   “The combined doctoral S&E degrees of the three largest European countries (Germany, France, and the United Kingdom) recently surpassed the number of U.S. earned degrees.” (National Science Foundation. Science and Engineering Indicators 2002 [p. 2-42 & Appendix Table 2-40], Arlington, VA: NSF, 2002. Available online: http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind02/start.htm). 9   “Universities within five Asian countries are now producing more engineering doctorates than universities within the United States. The gap is even larger, since half of the U.S. degrees are earned by foreign students, the majority of whom are Asian.” (National Science Foundation. Science and Engineering Indicators 2002 [p. 2-41 & Appendix Table 2-33 and 2-39]. Arlington, VA: NSF, 2002. Available online: http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind02/start.htm). 10   The National Academies. Science, Technology and the Federal Government: National Goals for a New Era [Chapter 1]. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1993. 11   Growth in H1B visas is documented in the following: National Science Foundation. Science and Engineering Indicators 2002 [Appendix Table 2-26]. Arlington, VA: NSF, 2001. Available online: http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind02/start.htm).

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