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RISING ABOVE THE GATHERING STORM TWO YEARS LATER Context for the ”Two Years Later” Convocation In October 2005 the National Academies released a report that New York Times col- umnist Thomas L. Freidman called “a new New Deal urgently called for by our times.”1 Written by a nonpartisan committee of business leaders, university presidents, and prominent scholars, including three Nobel Prize winners, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future urged the United States to make the investments needed to “compete, prosper, and be secure in the global com- munity of the 21st century.” The report recommended 20 specific implementing actions in four broad areas: K-12 Science and Mathematics Education: Increase America’s talent pool by vastly improving K-12 science and mathematics education. Science and Engineering Research: Sustain and strengthen the nation’s traditional commit- ment to long-term basic research that has the potential to be transformational to maintain the flow of new ideas that fuel the economy, provide security, and enhance the quality of life. Science and Engineering Higher Education: Make the United States the most attractive set- ting in which to study and perform research so that we can develop, recruit, and retain the best and brightest students, scientists, and engineers from within the United States and throughout the world. Incentives for Innovation: Ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world to innovate; invest in downstream activities such as manufacturing and marketing; and create high- paying jobs based on innovation by such actions as modernizing the patent system, realigning tax policies to encourage innovation, and ensuring affordable broadband access. 1 Thomas L. Friedman (2005), “Keeping Us in the Race,” The New York Times. October 14. Unless otherwise indi- cated, all other quotations and statements in this report were given at the convocation by participants. 2
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Accelerating Progress Toward a Brighter Economic Future On April 29, 2008, about 500 representatives of business, government, and academia met in Washington, D.C., to review the efforts taken to achieve the goals laid out in Rising Above the Gathering Storm. The convocation was organized by the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine with support from the National Math and Science Initiative. “A number of significant events have taken place since the Gathering Storm report was released,” said Norman Augustine, who chaired the committee that wrote the report. Unfortunately, he added, most of those positive events have occurred in other countries. Governments around the world are boosting their support of science and engineering research, invigo- Charles Vest and Norman Augustine rating precollege science and math education, and investing in institutions of higher education. Meanwhile, the United States has made little progress in strengthening its education, research, and innovation systems. “It would be a cruel outcome if the Gathering Storm report were to motivate others to become more competitive while we did little,” said Augustine. Although global developments and trends in states and localities remain very impor- tant for the future of U.S. innovation, there were limits to what could be covered thor- oughly in a one-day meeting. One of the breakout sessions covered state initiatives, but discussion at the convocation focused primarily on U.S. priorities and the federal policy context. The following summary reports the main themes that emerged from the presentations and discussion sessions at the convocation. After a brief overview of the initial reception of the Gathering Storm report, the summary is organized around the report’s four major recommendations. While progress has occurred in each of the four areas, many key steps have yet to be taken. “Competitiveness is very much on the agenda,” said Augustine. “The problem is to convert that interest into action.” 3