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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY While the world is being transformed by science and technology, the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government Is endeavoring to identity mechanisms by which "the branches of the U.S. government encourage and use the contributions of the nation's scientists and engineers [and] incorporate scientific and technical knowledge into policy and administrative decision-making" (The Commission, 1990~. Approximately 200,000 scientists and engineers are directly employed by the federal government (Figure i), and the President makes about 150 appointments of individuals to leadership positions of importance to science and engineering (see Appendix A, Table 11~. Thus, the Commission asked the National Research Council's Committee on Scientists and Engineers in the Federal Government to review what is known about the ability of federal agencies to recruit, retain, and utilize scientists and engineers effectively. 120 Al BLOC I,- ,, 40 in. ~ I I ~ 20 I ~ 11. O Thousands 1 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 Average FTP - GS, Equiv, ~ Demo Projects _ Navy ~37,050 Army 26,159~ ~ ~ ASA Of he r 24,061 USAF 13,994 Engineering and Architecture (GS - O) Engineers i Scientists USDA 24,857 Other l\ ) t Navy 24,09 0 vile,, ~ /Ar4m1y~ 4,624 I Interior 11,23 7 Bio. and Physical Sciences (GS~oo, 1300) SOURCE: U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Federal Staffing Digest 2~3: Spring 1990~:8. Figure 1. Federal employment of professional scientists and engineers, September 1989. 1
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Relative to the set of questions put to the Committee, this report does not give precise responses but, rather, sheds light on the confusion associated with many of those questions. The Committee accumulated information from various sources: a literature review of previous examinations of this topic and commissioned papers (see Appendix B); discussions with staff at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the National Science Foundation and with eminent scientists, engineers, and managers of federally employed scientists and engineers; and a workshop at which personnel specialists and line managers of the government's scientists and engineers discussed their experiences concerning recruitment, retention, and utilization of scientists and engineers (see Appendix C). At the same time, the Committee met several times to evaluate the information received, to identity additional needs, and to agree upon its findings. Findings Based on the activities that it undertook, the study committee focuses this report of its findings on three broad areas: the availability and relevance of data on the federal science and engineering work force, management practices relating to the career work force, and trends regarding presidential appointments. Availability and Relevance of Data on ache Federal Science and Engineering Work Force 1. The Central Personnel Data File (CPDF) maintained by OPM from data supplied by individual federal agencies presents a general picture of the federal work force, including scientists and engineers, based on broad occupational classifications. A primary purpose of the CPDF is to provide federal employment information for government-wide policy development and oversight. However, it is not now a management tool helpful to individual federal agencies. (See pages 8-10.) 2. Managers of the federal science and engineering (S&E) work force have been unable to agree on what constitutes accurate measures of the quality of that work force. Some CPDF data can be used as proxies to input measures of quality- such as the highest academic degree conferred on an employee. In addition, OPM has recently undertaken a study of work force quality, surveying a sample of non-DoD scientists and engineers. (See pages 10-~.) Management Practices Relating to the Career Work Force 3. Perceptions about factors affecting the federal government's ability to recruit and retain scientists and engineers have remained basically the same for the past 30 years, in spite of specific efforts by OPM and individual federal agencies to en hance such recruitment and retention. (See pages 11-~.) Table ~ lists several barriers to this ability and mechanisms that could improve their effectiveness. 2
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TABLE 1: Barriers to Effective Recruitment and Retention of Scientists and Engineers and Mechanisms to Reduce Them Barriers Inadequate compensation Lengthy time required to extend an offer of employment Difficulty of promotion after reaching GS-12 level Restricted role of line managers in personnel decisions Excessive paper work Questionable tie between performance and pay Personnel ceilings and reductions in force Mechanisms Pay banding, recruitment bonuses, occupation- specific pay scales. Direct-hire authority, simplified hiring procedures, increased personnel authority for one managers. Pay banding. Flexibility in increasing salary without promoting, increasing personnel authority for line managers, occupation-specific salary schedules. Direct-hire authority, computer-assisted classifications, more generic classifications. Performance appraisals and multiple components of pay increase that are not mutually exclusive; bonuses; awards Using adjunct personnel such as postdocs; flexibility in considering force factors other than seniority; simplified classification systems that enable the labs to retrain RIFed staff. 4. To fulfill the missions of federal agencies, science and engineering activity can be undertaken under a variety of scenarios including the traditional setting within an agency, demonstration projects, federal laboratories, and managed-and operated (M&O) facilities. Demonstration projects authorized by OPM and the contracting out of S&E work seem to have provided agencies with the flexibility deemed necessary to overcome some of the difficulties associated with recruit ment, retention, and utilization of scientists and engineers. (See pages 18-24.) 5. The extent to which scientists and engineers are utilized effectively varies from agency to agency. (See pages 24-25.) 3
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6. Many within the broader S&E community are concerned about the effects of the changing U.S. demography on the federal government's ability to recruit and re tain qualified U.S. citizens. Several managers of federal scientists and engineers revealed difficulties in hiring women and minorities. CPDF data on the race/eth nicity and sex of federal employees, used by agencies such as the Equal Employ ment Opportunity Commission to monitor a variety of federal affirmative action programs, could also indicate where the federal government might pursue initia tives to respond to projected shortages of scientists and engineers, tapping groups currently underrepresented in the sciences and engineering. (See pages 26-27.) 7. Government policies that limit the hiring of foreign nationals may have adverse effects on agencies' abilities to perform S&E work. (See page 27.) Trends Regarding Presidential Appointments 8. analysis: There is growing concern about the adequacy of the political appointments process and the impact of political appointees on the fulfillment of federal S&E work. (See pages 27-28.) Issues Requiring Further Analysis Based on these findings, the Committee identified six candidates for further What mechanisms and scenarios for conducting federal S&E work could be employed on a wider basis to enhance recruitment, retention, and utilization of federal scientists and engineers? What can be done to enhance federal recruitment of scientists and engineers, especially women and minorities at the entry level, and retention of all scientists and engineers at the midcareer level? What institutional decision-making processes should be altered and in what way? Should the relationship between OPM and the individual federal agencies be different for scientists and engineers than it is for other federal personnel? What steps must be taken to heighten the awareness within agencies of the mechanisms established by OPM to alleviate many of the problems that they encounter in recruiting and retaining scientists and engineers? How can the Central Personnel Data File be more useful to agencies facing difficulties in recruiting and retaining scientists and engineers? Are there too few scientists and engineers in the federal government? Or are there too few highly qualified federal scientists and engineers? What can be done so that the political appointment process enhances the recruit- ment, retention, and utilization of scientists and engineers in federal government? 4
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