The discipline is perceived by its members as being at a crucial time of change, and is presently in the midst of serious and substantive debates on how it should be positioned to meet the needs of the future.
Before addressing questions of whether or not and how chemical engineering should change to meet future needs, it is imperative to understand where the discipline currently is with respect to health and international standing. To that end, a benchmarking exercise was proposed, based on the process established in Experiments in International Benchmarking of US Research Fields (COSEPUP, 2000). The discipline has been benchmarked by a Panel of 12 members, 9 from United States and 3 from abroad, with expertise in each of 9 selected areas and an appropriate balance from academia, industry, and national labs. In addition, all the Panel members have extended familiarity of and experience with chemical engineering research not only in Europe but also in Asian countries. Several of the Panel members have setup industrial research centers in Asia (China, India, Japan, Singapore), and all of the Panel members have developed close collaborations with industrial and academic research centers in Europe.
The nine areas of chemical engineering covered in the report are engineering science of physical processes; engineering science of chemical processes; engineering science of biological processes; molecular and interfacial science and engineering; materials; biomedical products and biomaterials; energy; environmental impact and management; and process systems development and engineering. The Panel has considered both quantitative and qualitative measures of the status of the discipline in the above areas and corresponding subareas in response to the following three questions:
What is the position of U.S. research in chemical engineering relative to that of other regions or countries?
What key factors influence U.S. performance in chemical engineering research?
On the basis of current trends in the United States and abroad, what will be the relative future U.S. position in chemical engineering research?
The Panel was asked only to develop findings and conclusions—not recommendations. The Panel focused on leading-edge research, intermixing basic and applied research and process, product, and applications development. The measures used by the Panel include: