1

BACKGROUND

In 1993, the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine issued the report Science, Technology, and the Federal Government: National Goals for a New Era. This report recommended that the United States be among the world leaders in all major fields of science to rapidly exploit exciting new concepts discovered elsewhere in the world. The report also says the country should maintain clear leadership in selected fields where achieving national objectives is critical or where public interest is acute. A similar recommendation was made in a later National Research Council report, Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology, published in 1995: The United States should “strive for clear leadership in the most promising areas of science and technology and those deemed most important to our national goals.”

Both reports state that quantitative measures, such as dollars spent and number of scientists supported, are inadequate indicators of leadership and that policy decisions about programmatic issues or resource allocation would be better informed by comparative international assessments. Independent, field-specific panels were suggested as the best means to obtain such evaluations. Each panel would consist of researchers in the field, researchers in closely related fields, and research users who follow the field; each panel would include researchers from outside the United States.

In late 1996, COSEPUP began an experimental study of the effectiveness and outcome of such panels. The first panel report entitled International Benchmarking of US Mathematics Research was released in October 1997. This report—an evaluation of US research in materials science and engineering —was prepared by the second panel. A study of the field of immunology is in progress. Each panel has been asked to address several questions:

  • What is the position of US research in the field relative to that of other regions or countries?

  • What key factors influence relative US performance in the field?

  • On the basis of current trends in the United States and abroad, what will be the relative US position in the near term and in the longer term?



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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH 1 BACKGROUND In 1993, the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine issued the report Science, Technology, and the Federal Government: National Goals for a New Era. This report recommended that the United States be among the world leaders in all major fields of science to rapidly exploit exciting new concepts discovered elsewhere in the world. The report also says the country should maintain clear leadership in selected fields where achieving national objectives is critical or where public interest is acute. A similar recommendation was made in a later National Research Council report, Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology, published in 1995: The United States should “strive for clear leadership in the most promising areas of science and technology and those deemed most important to our national goals.” Both reports state that quantitative measures, such as dollars spent and number of scientists supported, are inadequate indicators of leadership and that policy decisions about programmatic issues or resource allocation would be better informed by comparative international assessments. Independent, field-specific panels were suggested as the best means to obtain such evaluations. Each panel would consist of researchers in the field, researchers in closely related fields, and research users who follow the field; each panel would include researchers from outside the United States. In late 1996, COSEPUP began an experimental study of the effectiveness and outcome of such panels. The first panel report entitled International Benchmarking of US Mathematics Research was released in October 1997. This report—an evaluation of US research in materials science and engineering —was prepared by the second panel. A study of the field of immunology is in progress. Each panel has been asked to address several questions: What is the position of US research in the field relative to that of other regions or countries? What key factors influence relative US performance in the field? On the basis of current trends in the United States and abroad, what will be the relative US position in the near term and in the longer term?

OCR for page 15
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH This page in the original is blank.