its ability to lead the world in innovation and job creation. As a result of concerns that a weakening of science and technology in the United States would inevitably degrade its social and economic conditions and erode the ability of its citizens to compete for high-quality jobs, Senators Lamar Alexander and Pete Domenici asked the National Academies to select a committee of experts from the scientific and technical community to assess the current situation, identify urgent challenges, and recommend specific steps to ensure that the United States maintains its leadership in science and engineering to compete successfully.

The resulting report,2 Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, evaluated the present status of U.S. competitiveness and made specific recommendations for improvements. A very short summary of the conclusions from the executive summary of that report is given in Box 1-1. In the first chapter of that report, some alarming competitiveness indicators are described. Several of relevance to chemistry are given here in Box 1-2.


Building on the results of these two studies, in 2006 the National Academies embarked on an effort to benchmark the research competitiveness of the United States in chemistry. In addition to concerns about the overall competitiveness of the United States, there are compelling reasons to assess the standing of U.S. chemistry now. The field of chemistry is facing issues of identity and purpose at a time when it is expanding beyond its traditional core to include areas related to biology, materials science, and nanotechnology. Concerns about the pipeline of students, about the nature of future employment opportunities, and about the fundamental health of the discipline and industry are regular topics of discussion at meetings of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the Council for Chemical Research (CCR) and have been the topic of such exercises as Chemical Vision 2020 and Chemical Enterprise 2015.3 Chemistry is facing a crucial time of change and is working to position itself to meet the needs of the future.


National Research Council, 2007, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.


For more information about the CCR Chemical Vision 2020 technology road maps, see For the ACS Chemical Enterprise 2015 results, see

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