most significant reports for U.S. science policy in recent history,” noting that it led quickly to more than two dozen bills aimed at strengthening American science and the creation of a number of task forces to investigate this concern. Addressing whether there is evidence for the alarmist view, Killewald said, “to some extent, the answer is certainly yes,” and she cited three main factors. First, the length of time between a Ph.D. program and the first independent science job is increasing. The number of years it takes to complete a Ph.D., the number of postdoctoral positions that emerging scientists need before securing their first job, and the number of postdoctoral fellows are all on the rise, explained Killewald. Second, there are unfavorable labor market outcomes for scientists. New scientists’ wages are falling relative to the wages of other similarly trained professions, particularly lawyers and doctors. “Falling relative financial rewards might be one reason” why students might consider alternative careers to science, Killewald noted.
A third factor, one that Killewald says receives the most attention, is the idea that international competition, especially from continental East Asia, is threatening the dominant position of U.S. science. The average annual growth rate in output of science and engineering publications of eastern Asian countries far exceeds that of the United States, Europe, and Japan (see Table 2-1). Killewald stated that international growth in science is not “a prediction of doomsday,” but an indication that the gap between the United States and other countries participating in global science” is narrowing. In terms of academic performance, schoolchildren in countries with economic resources similar to those of the United States, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, score substantially higher in math and science than those in the United States on a gross domestic product (GDP) per-capita basis. “This is the kind of result I see most commonly in the popular media,” she said. However, Killewald maintained that “this picture is not one of failure to perform by the U.S., but it is a picture of average performance, and we might think we should do better than that.”
TABLE 2-1 Average Annual Growth Rate (%) in Science and Engineering Article Output
SOURCE: Harvard University Press.
Another area of concern is whether the United States relies too heavily on immigrant scientists. Killewald cited statistics showing that the physical sciences relative to other subfields have long had a slightly higher reliance on foreign-born scientists and continue to do so. In fact, the percentage of native-born Americans going into the physical sciences has declined steadily since 1960. As far as the student population is concerned, the fraction of foreign-born bachelor’s degree students in science is only about 6 percent and that number has been steady since the late 1970s. It is only at the level of graduate degrees that there is an increase in the number of foreign-born students.
Despite the evidence in favor of the alarmist view, Killewald said there are “some real sparks of strength in the U.S. scientific picture.” For example, the American scientific labor force is growing as a share of the total workforce. Also, in surveys of the general public, “scientist” continues to be regarded as a high-prestige occupation. In fact, the American public continues to express confidence in the leaders of the scientific community and to endorse public funding for basic scientific research. Academically, U.S. schoolchildren’s scores on standardized tests in math and science are rising, and more U.S. students are completing advanced coursework. Killewald said that an increasing number of high school students are taking and passing Advanced Placement tests in science and math and an increasing number are taking calculus in high school.
There has also been no decline in the pursuit of scientific higher education over the past 40 years. Citing data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES 1972, 1980, 1988), Killewald noted that the percentage of students receiving bachelor’s degrees who are in the top quartile of math achievement in high school has risen substantially over the past 40 years, with a nearly 50 percent increase among women getting bachelor’s degrees (see Table 2-2). What has not changed much over that time is the percentage of men and women receiving science-related bachelor’s degrees—nearly a third of men and approximately 13 percent of women. However, the percentage of students getting bachelor’s degrees with a physical science major has fallen by over 50 percent for both women and men. The physical