from abroad, its own students are increasingly turning to non-S&E careers. Numerous studies have indicated several factors, often field-specific, that can influence domestic students’ career choices: the length of graduate education, whether postdoctoral training is necessary, lack of growth of tenure-track faculty positions and uncertainty in research funding, and more attractive career opportunities in other fields. Little is known about the interaction between the flow of international talent to the United States and the decisions of US citizens and permanent residents to choose S&E careers. Students in Europe and in countries that have almost no foreign students—including China, India, and Singapore—are increasingly choosing fields of study outside S&E, a trend ascribed to declining job opportunities for classically trained scientists and engineers in these countries.12

Student and postdoctoral training has become part of the larger phenomenon of globalization of science and technology R&D that brings its own questions: How essential is it for the United States to maintain its broad leadership in S&E? To introduce incentives to increase the interest of its own students in S&E fields? To remain the destination of choice for the best international students?

As the tide of S&E expertise rises around the world, it is in the nation’s interest to understand better the contribution of international scientists and engineers to the US economy and national security, create policies that can sustain this contribution, and find ways to attract more US citizens to careers in S&E.


In general terms, the committee believes that it is essential to the national interest of the United States to maintain its excellence and overall leadership in S&E research and education so that it can maintain its own comparative advantage with respect to global knowledge production. Talented people are a critical input in such a knowledge-driven economy. At present, the strategy of the United States is to draw heavily from international human resources. However, as other nations have built up their S&E infrastructure, there is now more competition for these talented people.

In such a world, what policies might best serve the interests of the


See, for example, N. Jayaram. 2004. “Higher Education in India.” In: Asian Universities: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Challenges, eds. P. G. Altbach and T. Umakoshi. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, p. 94; and Weifang Min. 2004. “Chinese Higher Education.” Ibid, p. 55. Jayaram writes,“The fact that good students are no longer taking basic science courses has seriously affected the academic programs of well-reputed scientific institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore), which has now come out with incentive schemes to urge meritorious students to take basic sciences at the graduate level.”

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement