review some of the mechanisms designed to attract and sustain student interest in S&T; and
identify methods to promote an interest in human resource development among the relevant international organizations.
Over 40 participants representing 15 countries, as well as 9 international multilateral organizations, took part in the 2-day invitational conference. The conference was generously hosted in Brussels by Professor Paolo Fasella, Director General for Science, Research, and Development (DGXII) of the Commission of the European Communities. The conference was divided into five sessions, each featuring a panel discussion addressing a major issue.
This report identifies and illustrates key contributions of worldwide research on S&T, and of the organizations committed to that research, to the development of policies for creating a strong and competitive workforce. The report reviews a wide range of studies that capture current approaches to the development of human resource policies for S&T in a number of industrialized nations. These include surveys of student attitudes toward S&T careers, intervention programs aimed at increasing the number and quality of individuals working in S&T, and databases designed to monitor the human resource system nationally and internationally.
In the two years since the conference was held, some of the studies discussed in the authored papers have concluded, some have made further progress, and new programs have been planned. For example, at its 1993 General Assembly, the ICSU adopted a resolution that has led to an initiative to develop a new global Program in Capacity Building in Science. Although this program is not specifically aimed at S&T careers, it addresses human resource development through achieving a higher level of public understanding of S&T to guide the application of science to the problems facing humanity. The goal of the program is to raise scientific literacy globally. The elements include: (1) establishing a Network for Capacity Building in Science, (2) strengthening primary school science education, (3) overcoming the geographical isolation of scientists, (4) promoting public understanding of science, and (5) presenting the case for science.
Although time has passed since the conference was held, the issues at the heart of this report, which were discussed by each of the panels, will continue to provide challenges and opportunities for researchers, statisticians, policymakers, and a wide array of institutions for years to come. These issues are briefly summarized below.
The first panel's goal was to identify what data and information on human resources collected at the global and national levels reveal about trends in S&T careers. A paper on the work of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) discussed the global level, and a paper about Japan's National Institute for Science and Technology Policy (NISTEP) provided an example of national efforts.
The discussion of global data collection revealed that serious problems of data comparability and compatibility must be resolved. A key difficulty was the confusion arising from various definitions of "highly skilled workforce." The OECD, with the active support of the European Community and its statistical branch Eurostat, was addressing these problems in the course of revising its manual on research and development personnel.
A number of concerns at the national level emerged from the discussion of the statistics and data collected by Japan's NISTEP. Among the issues were the demographic evidence of an aging population and the potential shortage of young people to maintain the skilled workforce. Changing attitudes toward S&T among the younger generation and the need to diversify the scientific and engineering personnel supply by including women, older people, and non-Japanese intensified these problems, and the paper presented a number of models for addressing them.
During the commentary, the discussant noted that common problems related to comparability, specificity, periodicity, and structure existed in the collection of data at both national and global levels. The ultimate objective of modeling the factors that influence career choice, it was argued, should be to forecast the impact of these factors on the availability of S&T personnel as a basis for developing policies to affect the supply. Creating such models, so that the data could be useful for policy formation, was a serious challenge, however.