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The Future of U.S. Chemistry Research: Benchmarks and Challenges 5 Likely Future Position: Increasing Challenges to U.S. Leadership in Chemistry Earlier in this report the panel assessed the current position of U.S. research in chemistry relative to that in other regions or countries (Chapter 3) and identified the key factors influencing relative U.S. performance in chemistry (Chapter 4). In this chapter the panel addresses the third part of its charge concerning the future of U.S. chemistry: “On the basis of current trends in the United States and abroad, what will be the relative U.S. position in the near term and in the longer term?” The short answer is that the current U.S. lead in chemistry will continue to shrink as the chemistry world becomes “flatter”1 and more competitive. At the same time, chemistry makes many significant contributions to U.S. economic competitiveness and national quality of life; broad public benefits are now derived from past investments in chemistry. Overall, the panel believes that the science has never been more exciting nor the opportunities to gain new knowledge ever been greater than today. U.S. LEADERSHIP IN CHEMISTRY Assuming no major change in U.S. science policy or levels of financial support, chemistry in the United States will remain stronger than in any other single country for at least the next five years. However, there will be increasing competition, not only from our traditional competitors (Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom) but also from additional countries in the European Union (Spain and Italy, for example) and Asian countries 1 Friedman, T. L., The World Is Flat, 2005, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
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The Future of U.S. Chemistry Research: Benchmarks and Challenges (Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, India, and China) that are dramatically increasing their activities in chemistry. There are many countries in which both the quantity and the quality of chemical research are increasing. As the chemistry world becomes flatter and the ability to communicate across continents increases, the number of international collaborations between U.S. chemists and chemists around the globe will increase. Analysis of data in Chapters 3 and 4 revealed trends in U.S. chemistry that the panel believes are likely to continue in the near term (two to three years) and midterm (five to seven years). Over the past decade the number of new U.S.-trained Ph.D.s has been virtually constant, the number of papers published per year by U.S. chemists has not grown, and federal research support for chemistry has struggled to keep up with inflation. In contrast, the number of Ph.D.s trained outside the United States continues to increase. The number of papers published by non-U.S. authors in both international and American Chemical Society journals is increasing. In many areas of chemistry, other countries are making strategic investments in chemistry research. Based on flat U.S. chemistry research budgets and flat numbers of students, the panel projects that other nations and regions will soon be catching up with the United States. Projections for chemistry as a whole and for various areas and subareas of chemistry are presented below. Will the United States Continue to Lead in Chemistry Publications? The panel projects that the percentage of chemistry papers from U.S. authors will continue to decrease over the next several years. This will not be due to a decrease in the number of U.S. papers but to an increase in the number of papers from other countries. The quality of international chemistry is also increasing, and the panel projects that this will be reflected in increased citations per paper for non-U.S. authors and result in a decrease in the U.S. lead in citations per paper. Similarly, the fractions of the most highly accessed, most highly cited, and “hot” papers coming from non-U.S. authors are expected to increase. Will There Be a Sustainable Supply of U.S. Chemists? The number of chemistry Ph.D.s trained in the United States has been steady at about 2,000 per year for the past several decades. However, over this time the number of U.S.citizens receiving chemistry Ph.D.s has steadily decreased mainly due to the decline of U.S. males receiving degrees. To maintain the same number of chemistry graduate students, U.S. universities have successfully attracted increasing numbers of U.S. females and students from other countries, who often stay in the United States to pursue careers
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The Future of U.S. Chemistry Research: Benchmarks and Challenges in chemistry. In addition, U.S. universities have attracted postdoctoral associates from other countries who often enter the U.S. workforce. It is not clear whether the United States can continue to attract the best and brightest chemists from the United States and abroad. U.S. chemistry departments continue to attract and retain outstanding international graduate students and postdoctoral research associates because of the outstanding quality of U.S. chemistry research, faculty, and facilitie, and the availability of financial support. In addition, they are attracted to the U.S. chemistry departments as an entry to a thriving economy with a strong chemical industry. Evidence of the attractiveness of U.S. chemistry is the high percentage of foreign doctorate recipients who plan to remain in the United States for work after graduation (see Table 5.1). Until this country is able to attract more U.S.-born students to enter chemistry, the continuation of U.S. leadership in chemistry will increasingly rest on our ability to attract the best students from abroad. In an era of globalization, and of increasing mobility of top scientific talent, it is essential to maintain the highest quality and opportunity in U.S. chemistry departments. Otherwise we will lose our best people, both U.S. and foreign born. Conversely, if the best quality and opportunity can be maintained, U.S. chemistry will be even stronger, as the United States will be able to attract and retain the best overseas people as well as the best U.S. people. However, with changes in visa policies as a result of the attacks on 9/11 (see Figure 5.1) and global leveling in research capability, the United States may be losing ground. Following 9/11, international students and postdoctoral associates found it increasingly difficult to obtain visas to study in the United States, and many traveled instead to Europe, Japan, and Australia for their graduate work. This has had a greater impact on other disciplines than on chemistry. However, because of the growth of new opportunities for Ph.D. chemists in China, India, and elsewhere, more foreign students who obtain a U.S. Ph.D. are likely to return to careers in their native countries or to other opportunities abroad. Thus, the United States is faced with TABLE 5.1 Percentage of Foreign Doctorate Recipients Reporting Plans to Stay in the United States After Graduation, 1994-2003 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 Definite plans to stay 34 35 42 44 46 49 49 54 52 48 Plans to stay 62 65 67 68 67 70 71 74 73 71 SOURCE: Finn, Michael G. Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities, 2003, Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, 2005.
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The Future of U.S. Chemistry Research: Benchmarks and Challenges FIGURE 5.1 Student (F-1), exchange visitor (J-1), and other high-skill-(H-1) related temporary visas issued, 1998-2005. SOURCE: National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators 2006. increasing competition overall for attracting foreign graduate students and for retaining them in the U.S. workforce. Where will the United States get the new Ph.D. chemists it needs to lead innovation in academic chemistry and the chemical industry? There has been no significant growth in the number of U.S. bachelor’s degrees in chemistry over the past decade. Will the United States be able to attract more U.S. citizens into science as has been done in other countries? Will we be able to improve K-12 math and science education to help provide a longer-term source of new chemists? Will this country succeed in tapping into the pool of underrepresented U.S. minorities? While this is an important long-range goal to help solve the problem, underrepresented minorities will have limited impact on a five year timescale because so few are currently in the pipeline. Will the United States be able to continue to attract more U.S. females into chemistry careers? Currently, 31 percent of the U.S. citizen Ph.D.s in chemistry go to women. Increasing numbers of women and underrepresented minorities may help ameliorate the problem in the coming five years if foreign-born student enrollments drop significantly.
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The Future of U.S. Chemistry Research: Benchmarks and Challenges Issues that affect the future ability of U.S. chemistry programs to attract high-quality graduate students include: Recruiting students from both within the United States and abroad. The decreasing numbers of U.S. citizens or permanent residents pursuing chemistry Ph.D.s is troubling. Improving and strengthening chemistry Ph.D. programs so that they can remain poles of attraction for young scientists. Retaining an open and active research environment that has been very attractive especially for non-U.S. Ph.D. students. Adequate financial support for students pursuing chemistry Ph.D. degrees. Maintaining a strong job market for chemistry graduates (especially Ph.D.s) with improved incentives and more attractive career paths. Increasing diversity in academia, government, and industry chemistry leadership. What If U.S. Chemistry Research Funding Remains Flat? Federal funding of chemistry has barely kept up with inflation over the past decade, with the notable exception of the five-year doubling of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget initiated in 1999. The gradual shift in U.S. funding away from individual investigator grants and toward centers will play an increasing role in identifying research foci, and this will encourage collaborations. Competition from other countries will be especially strong in areas where other countries have made strategic investments, such as nanoscience in Asia, green chemistry in Japan, biomimetic materials in Europe (Germany, the United Kingdom), proteomics in Germany and China, large-scale computation in Japan and Germany, reaction dynamics in Europe and Taiwan, and photovoltaic materials in Japan and Germany. The panel’s projection is that new funding for chemistry in the United States and around the world will be concentrated in emerging and interdisciplinary areas, which are reflected in new journals: for example, in nanoscience (Nano Letters), the chemistry-biology interface (ACS Chemical Biology, Nature Chemical Biology), green chemistry (Green Chemistry RSC), combinatorial chemistry (Journal Combinatorial Chemistry), and proteomics (Journal Proteome Research). Many U.S. chemical companies have eliminated or significantly reduced in size their corporate or central research laboratories in order to more closely align research and development with shorter-term business opportunities. The U.S. chemical industry, which is largely global in nature, will continue to expand its applied and basic research laboratories in China and
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The Future of U.S. Chemistry Research: Benchmarks and Challenges India rather than in the United States, Japan, and Western Europe. Technology transfer from U.S. universities to small start-up companies will likely continue. Federal funding programs for the formation of small businesses (such as the Small Business Innovation Research program) will become more critical for moving fundamental advances in chemistry to applications with societal impact. With steady funding of research in chemistry and with expanded funding for targeted areas of chemistry, research funding for core areas of chemistry is decreasing. As documented in Chapter 3, several core areas of chemistry research are at serious risk and more may become at risk. Continued support of core research areas, which underlie advances in emerging areas of science, is important for the health of U.S. chemistry. Will There Be Adequate Infrastructure to Support Basic Research? The quality of the basic research infrastructure strongly influences the long-term health of chemistry research. The position of the U.S. research enterprise will be strongly influenced by the improvement or decline of this infrastructure, which includes organizational structure and intellectual property policies in addition to facilities and instrumentation. The university structure in which the chemistry organization resides strongly influences the fortunes of the discipline. The high quality of academic leadership in chemistry and the excellence of the scientific research enterprise have placed chemistry departments in a position of strength at most of the top research universities in the United States. The prominence of chemistry in industry and government agencies is also well established. Forward-looking intellectual property policies, administrative support, and access to patent expertise are improving for U.S. academic researchers in chemistry. The anticipated continuing liberalization of rules that permit academic researchers to commercialize their inventions is a positive step toward decreasing the time from invention to market. Another positive step is the growing assistance from the universities in finding industrial commercialization partners. Chemists require excellent well-ventilated laboratories for safe research. They also require instruments for daily use and access to major frequently used instruments in their local department. Chemistry research sometimes requires major instruments or facilities that can only be economically supported by national facilities. Major centers and facilities provide key infrastructure and capabilities for conducting research and have provided strong support for U.S. leadership in chemistry and fields depending on chemistry. Key capabilities for chemistry research include advanced light sources, scanning probe instruments, supercomputers, very high field nuclear magnetic resonance spec-
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The Future of U.S. Chemistry Research: Benchmarks and Challenges trometers, advanced mass spectrometers, nuclear reactors and accelerators, and specialized facilities for chemical biology and nanofabrication. U.S. facilities have instrumentation that is on par with the best in the world. However, rapid advances in the design and capabilities of instrumentation can create obsolescence in five to eight years. Large central facilities must be continuously upgraded and maintained. Sustained support is essential to compete with heavy capital investments by the European Union, Japan, Korea, and China. Federal laboratories and the national laboratories of the Department of Energy (DOE) are critical in providing unique facilities for research, and they have instrumentation that no single university could afford to put in place. An important complement is the availability of world-class scientists who engage in long-term fundamental research and provide assistance through research collaborations with the user community. Although the United States has enjoyed a research and funding environment that has enabled the installation and operation of a diverse range of facilities to support leading-edge research in chemistry, funding for needed infrastructure seems to be in continuous jeopardy. U.S. LEADERSHIP IN AREAS OF CHEMISTRY U.S. chemistry now holds a leadership position in most areas of chemistry. But because of the advance of chemistry in other nations, competition is increasing and the lead of U.S. chemistry will shrink. The United States is particularly strong in emerging areas of chemical science at the interface with other disciplines. In these areas, which include nanochemistry, biological chemistry, and materials chemistry, the United States will maintain a leadership position despite growing competition, but the lead is likely to eventually erode. In some core areas where the U.S. position is not as strong, such as main group chemistry, solid state chemistry, nuclear and radiochemistry, and basic theory, U.S. leadership is likely to continue to fade. Factors that will affect the future of most areas of U.S. chemistry have been discussed already. Comments on specific concerns of the areas of chemistry dealt with in this report are given below. The United States Will Maintain Leadership in Analytical Chemistry The rapid commercialization and global distribution of technical advances, and the immediate global distribution of intellectual advances via commercial short courses, have the potential to level the playing field in analytical chemistry. These sales and courses are often the products of U.S. companies, which lead the world in the development and sales of analytical instrumentation. In applications areas, such as genomics, proteomics,
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The Future of U.S. Chemistry Research: Benchmarks and Challenges chemical polymer analysis, and surface analysis, the U.S. “edge” is maintained by providing widespread and cross-disciplinary access to the most complex and expensive technology in federally funded shared resources and national laboratories. Technical innovation is being stimulated in commercial companies by the expanding global market for instruments and supplies. Technical innovation is stimulated in universities in part by the new and effective support they provide for patenting and licensing. The United States Will Remain Among the Leaders in Atmospheric Chemistry U.S. leadership in atmospheric chemistry will be challenged by increased competition from Europe, notably Germany and the United Kingdom. Emerging competition is also coming from China. Research in atmospheric chemistry is very interdisciplinary and distributed across three main areas: data collection in the field, laboratory simulations, and theoretical modeling. The challenge for the United States is to maintain strong efforts in each area and to facilitate efficient information exchange among the three areas. The United States Will Maintain Leadership in Biological Chemistry The U.S. leadership in biological chemistry is generally strong, but Asia and Europe have been heavily investing in biological chemistry. Thus, the United States is facing increasingly strong competition in chemical biology, structural biology, biocatalysis, functional genomics, and signaling pathways in living systems. While U.S. funding for biological chemistry has been strong in this area (which has tremendous implications for human health), there are some problem areas. For example, funding cuts at DOE in the basic chemistry underpinning nuclear medicine research may destabilize U.S. leadership in the area of in vivo molecular imaging. The loss of this core funding has stimulated a state-of-the-science review by a National Academies panel, which is expected to be completed in mid-2007. The United States Will Maintain Leadership in Chemistry Education The United States is currently the leader in chemistry education. The strength of chemistry education comes largely from the few U.S. universities where it is within the chemistry department rather than a school of education. Gains in U.S. chemistry education research will come as additional universities adopt this model and foster chemistry education research. Competition from England, Germany, and Australia is projected to increase.
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The Future of U.S. Chemistry Research: Benchmarks and Challenges The United States Will Maintain Leadership in Inorganic Chemistry The very strong U.S. position in bioinorganic chemistry will be maintained because of strong support from NIH and because of strong interest in this hot area of inorganic chemistry. The United States is a leader in transition metal organometallic chemistry and homogeneous catalysis, but increasing investment in this area from the European Union will increase competition. Similarly, in solid state inorganic chemistry, the moderately strong leadership position of the United States is threatened by increasing competition from Western Europe and Japan. The U.S. weakness in main group chemistry appears to reflect both funding trends and the merger of main group chemistry with other areas so completely that it has lost its identity as a separate area. Western Europe and Japan have invested more in this area since they better appreciate the importance of main group chemistry to so many other scientific and engineering disciplines. The low U.S. research funding in this area and the small number of personnel trained in this area will continue to place the United States at a significant competitive disadvantage. The United States Will Remain Among the Leaders in Macromolecules The United States will continue to be a scientific leader in the synthesis and characterization of multifunctional macromolecular materials; however, university research programs will continue to refocus on rapidly emerging technology-based platforms, such as biomedical technologies, alternative energy sources, renewable resources, and electroactive devices. The United States will face increasing competition from the European Union in the areas of sustainable macromolecular chemistry and Asia-Pacific in areas dealing with electroactive macromolecular materials. While the United States has increased its attention to supramolecular chemistry, the European Union has a more directed focus on the impact of this to the emerging field on a broader range of technologies. New faculty and incoming graduate students in macromolecular chemistry continue to show intense interest in the interface of macromolecular chemistry with emerging life sciences disciplines. In addition, many more students are now interested in entrepreneurship and working with small start-up companies. The U.S. Leadership in Materials Chemistry and Nanoscience Will Be Challenged U.S. leadership in materials chemistry and nanoscience is likely to decrease with time because of the high priorities given to these subfields by
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The Future of U.S. Chemistry Research: Benchmarks and Challenges other countries. Materials chemistry and nanoscience have been an area targeted for growth in Europe. New centers for nano- and biomaterials have recently been established in Germany and the Netherlands. The field is also gaining momentum in Asia. The United States has been successful so far in recruiting the world’s best talent in materials chemistry. Recent European and Asian investments in infrastructure and research funding are likely to continue to provide increased competition. As these new, sufficiently funded, state-of-the-art centers continue to appear outside the United States, this country will face increasing difficulty in attracting leading scientists. Materials and nanochemistry is a highly multidisciplinary field. The research in these areas will involve increasingly sophisticated fabrication and characterization facilities. There is a growing demand for specialized, capital-intensive clean rooms that can be used for “nonelectronics” applications. Collaborations will continue to become more important at the interface between materials and nanochemistry. Both international collaborations and strong partnerships between industrial and academic researchers will become more prevalent in this technology-oriented field. The U.S. Position Among the Leaders in Nuclear and Radiochemistry Will Be Challenged U.S. research in nuclear and radiochemistry, principally carried out at national laboratories, will continue at a leading level. The need for chemists with advanced training in nuclear and radiochemistry will likely increase in order to provide expertise in nuclear medicine and environmental fields. If the United States begins to build new nuclear reactors, there will be a severe shortage of chemists to support these facilities since very few chemists are being trained in this area. The number of U.S. universities offering graduate programs in nuclear and radiochemistry continues to decrease, as do the numbers of faculty members who can teach these subjects. The DOE has supported nuclear chemistry summer schools for undergraduates in an attempt to fill this gap in education. It is uncertain how the gap will be filled in the future, as training in nuclear and radiochemistry is declining in other countries too. If and when the United States decides that nuclear and radiochemistry programs are critical for the U.S. economy and our energy needs, additional investments will be required to attract students and faculty to meet these needs. The United States Will Remain Among the Leaders in Organic Chemistry The strong leadership of the United States in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery will likely continue due to strong support from NIH. In
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The Future of U.S. Chemistry Research: Benchmarks and Challenges synthetic organic chemistry, increasing competition from Japan, Western Europe, and China will likely decrease the lead of the United States. In organometallic chemistry and homogeneous catalysis, the United States is likely to maintain its leadership. The strength of the European effort in organocatalysis is likely to grow and provide stiff competition for the United States. The erosion of support for physical organic chemistry in the United States will likely lead to a decline in U.S. leadership. The United States Will Remain Among the Leaders in Physical Chemistry The United States is currently among the leaders in experimental physical chemistry but is experiencing increasing competition from Western Europe and Japan. Frontier research in experimental physical chemistry that leads to the discovery of underlying principles is most often associated with the conception and development of novel instrumentation. The need to design and build unique instrumentation requires ready access to machine shop, and technical support from electronics technicians and instrument makers. Such technical infrastructure is in place and highly valued, particularly in Europe, Japan, and Taiwan, while it has been all but eliminated at most private academic institutions in the United States. The scarcity of this technical infrastructure is a major reason why the United States is among the leaders, rather than the leader, in these fields. The U.S. Position Among Leaders in Theory/Computation Will Continue to Be Challenged The United States is currently a leader in most areas of theoretical/ computational chemistry. In basic theory, Europe has many talented young investigators. Within the next 10 years, given these demographics, the U.S. leadership will be challenged by Europe in electronic structure and basic theory development. This trend does not characterize the entire field of theoretical chemistry. For example, Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics simulation methods were invented in the United States, and to this day, the United States maintains a strong position, especially in quantum Monte Carlo calculations. SUMMARY On the basis of current trends in the United States and abroad, the panel projects the U.S. position in chemistry research in the near term (two to three years) and midterm (five to seven years) as outlined below: Chemistry research in the United States will remain stronger than in
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The Future of U.S. Chemistry Research: Benchmarks and Challenges any other single country. In the near future, U.S. chemistry will be the leader or among the world’s leaders in all areas but not all subareas. Because of the advance of chemistry in other nations, competition is increasing and the lead of U.S. chemistry will shrink. There will be increasing competition from our traditional European competitors, the European Union, Japan, and other Asian countries, particularly China and India. U.S. leadership in chemistry publications will continue to diminish. As U.S. publication rates remain steady, the number of papers from other countries is increasing. The quality of international chemistry publications also is increasing. U.S. chemistry will be particularly strong in emerging areas. In emerging areas such as nanochemistry, biological chemistry, and materials chemistry, the United States is strong. These areas are attracting new investigators and funding initiatives. But even in these areas, the U.S. leadership position is likely to erode due to growing competition. U.S. chemistry leadership will diminish in core areas. The growth in applications-oriented research and molecularly oriented bio- and materials-related activities has been accompanied by a parallel decrease in funding for basic research in some fundamental core areas of physical chemistry and organic chemistry. Core research areas, which underlie advances in emerging areas of science, are likely to continue to struggle for research support. Japan and Europe maintain more balanced support between core and emerging areas of chemistry. In some core subareas, such as main group chemistry, nuclear and radiochemistry, and basic theory, the U.S. position has already noticeably diminished. The sustainability of the supply of U.S. chemists may be in jeopardy. It is likely that the number of U.S. citizens receiving chemistry Ph.D.s will continue to decrease. At the same time, U.S. chemistry may find it increasingly difficult to attract and retain outstanding international graduate students and postdoctoral research associates as chemistry in other nations improves. Continued aftershocks of the 9/11 attacks, such as increased difficulty in obtaining student visas, may continue to exacerbate the situation. U.S. funding of chemistry research and infrastructure will remain tight. U.S. funding of chemistry is projected to continue to barely keep up with inflation. It is also likely to continue to shift away from individual investigator grants toward shorter-term goals and to be concentrated in emerging and interdisciplinary areas. Support of core research areas of chemistry, which underlie advances in emerging areas of science and in general areas
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The Future of U.S. Chemistry Research: Benchmarks and Challenges of national priorities in healthcare, energy, and technology, will likely not be as well funded as the emerging areas. In addition, the installation and operation of a diverse range of facilities to support leading-edge research in chemistry will be equally stretched.
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