employment of new knowledge in the service of society; and achiev[ing] excellence in U.S. science, mathematics, engineering and technology education at all levels.5 The panel was chaired by Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, former head of the National Security Agency.
The Executive Summary of the Odom report reaches conclusions and makes recommendations:
The modern world increasingly depends on the mathematical sciences in areas ranging from national security and medical technology to computer software, telecommunications, and investment policy. More and more American workers, from the boardroom to the assembly line, cannot do their jobs without mathematical skills. Without strong resources in the mathematical sciences, America will not retain its pre-eminence in industry and commerce.
At this moment, the U.S. enjoys a position of world leadership in the mathematical sciences. But this position is fragile. It depends very substantially on immigrants who had their mathematical training elsewhere and in particular on the massive flow of experts from the former Communist bloc. . . . Young Americans do not see careers in the mathematical sciences as attractive. Funding for graduate study is scarce and ungenerous, especially when compared to funding for other sciences and with what happens in Western Europe. Further, it takes too long to obtain a doctorate because of the distractions of excessive teaching. Students wrongly believe that jobs that call for mathematical training are scarce and poorly paid. Weaknesses in K-12 mathematics education undermine the capabilities of the U.S. workforce.
Based on present trends, it is unlikely that the U.S. will be able to maintain its world leadership in the mathematical sciences. It is, however, essential for the U.S. to remain the world leader in critical subfields, and to maintain enough strength in all subfields to be able to take full advantage of mathematics developed elsewhere. Without remedial action by the universities and [the NSF], the U.S. will not remain strong in mathematics: there will not be enough excellent U.S.-trained mathematicians, nor will it be practicable to import enough experts from elsewhere, to fill the Nation’s needs. . . .
We recommend that [the NSF] encourage programs that:
• Broaden graduate and undergraduate education in the mathematical sciences. Provide support for full time graduate students in the mathematical sciences comparable with the other sciences.
• Provide increased opportunity for postdoctoral study for those who wish to become academic researchers as a means to broaden and strengthen their training as professional mathematicians.
5 National Science Foundation, 1998, Report of the Senior Assessment Panel for the International Assessment of the U.S. Mathematical Sciences. NSF, Arlington, Va., p. ii.