This section addresses the questions: “What are the current trends materials science research in the United States and abroad, and what will the US position be in the near-and long-term future?”
Current and future opportunities for materials science and engineering are enormous for several reasons:
Knowledge of materials and how to tailor their performance economically will be an enabling element for many technologies important to the US economy.
US research instrumentation and computation facilities are robust.
There has been a resurgence of interest in processing and synthesis research. This is facilitating the establishment of high-yield, “right-first-time” manufacturing processes, and it has increased the number of pathways for creating new materials.
The implementation of computational methods is leading to rapid growth in our understanding of complex phenomena and to a reduction in lead time from concept to scientific feasibility.
The unification of the field and the growth in multidisciplinary collaborations are increasing the productivity and quality of research.
Graduate education in materials science and engineering is becoming more diverse. It appeals to students with bachelors' degrees in many science and engineering disciplines, and it provides an array of career opportunities.
No country is in a better position than is the United States to take advantage of these factors. However, several developments could curtail our ability to fully capitalize on our strengths:
There has been a dramatic change in the Department of Defense (DOD) basic research funding strategy toward areas of strictly military relevance. The generic (dual use) materials research formerly funded by DOD has not shifted to other sources of federal funding. The consequence is a major (~50%) reduction in funds for nonmilitary basic materials research at the universities. This could weaken US leadership in such areas as metals, composites, and
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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH 5 PROJECTION OF LEADERSHIP DETERMINANTS This section addresses the questions: “What are the current trends materials science research in the United States and abroad, and what will the US position be in the near-and long-term future?” 5.1. Overview Current and future opportunities for materials science and engineering are enormous for several reasons: Knowledge of materials and how to tailor their performance economically will be an enabling element for many technologies important to the US economy. US research instrumentation and computation facilities are robust. There has been a resurgence of interest in processing and synthesis research. This is facilitating the establishment of high-yield, “right-first-time” manufacturing processes, and it has increased the number of pathways for creating new materials. The implementation of computational methods is leading to rapid growth in our understanding of complex phenomena and to a reduction in lead time from concept to scientific feasibility. The unification of the field and the growth in multidisciplinary collaborations are increasing the productivity and quality of research. Graduate education in materials science and engineering is becoming more diverse. It appeals to students with bachelors' degrees in many science and engineering disciplines, and it provides an array of career opportunities. No country is in a better position than is the United States to take advantage of these factors. However, several developments could curtail our ability to fully capitalize on our strengths: There has been a dramatic change in the Department of Defense (DOD) basic research funding strategy toward areas of strictly military relevance. The generic (dual use) materials research formerly funded by DOD has not shifted to other sources of federal funding. The consequence is a major (~50%) reduction in funds for nonmilitary basic materials research at the universities. This could weaken US leadership in such areas as metals, composites, and
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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH ceramics, research areas for which DOD had been a primary federal supporter (Figure 3.9). The United States could become less attractive for foreign students and researchers, because of the increasing strength and funding opportunities for materials research and development elsewhere. Having fewer foreign participants could slow research capability; for decades, many prominent materials researchers have come to the United States from abroad. A traditional US strength has been the availability of diverse facilities at universities conducting leading-edge materials research. With the decline in federal funding, particularly from DOD, for instrumentation and facilities, complex university laboratories, such as those required for next-generation electronic materials and device structures are having difficulty. The elimination of central research laboratories and longer term innovation research by many high-tech companies has made technology transition from universities more difficult. Greater efforts and new pathways are needed to ensure the realization of engineering benefit from new materials concepts developed at universities. Shortening the cycle between material invention and engineering application is crucial to continued economic competitiveness in the areas of technology that depend on new materials. However, even though there are considerable opportunities, research funding in this area is limited. Other countries are pursuing this opportunity more aggressively than is the United States: There is a growing partnership between industry, university, and government laboratories to exploit new materials concepts more rapidly, for example, at the National Center for Scientific Research in France. 5.2. Recruitment of Talented Researchers Talented researchers are needed at all levels in materials research. From the 1950s through the 1980s, US institutions attracted the world 's best scientists as principle investigators because of the presence of outstanding researchers with whom these individuals could work, a superior economy, and outstanding research facilities. More recently, there has been considerable global leveling in research capability, and the United States has lost appeal among highly talented scientists in the industrialized world. As shown in Figure 5.1 and Figure 5.2 and Table 5.1, the number of scientists and engineers coming to the United States declined by 26% from 1993 to 1994 (NSF 1997). More current data are needed to determine whether this was a one-time occurrence attributable to immigration from the former USSR before 1994, or a long-term trend.
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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH Figure 5.1 Scientists and Engineers Admitted to the US on Permanent Visas by Labor Certification, 1990-1994 Source: NSF, 1997. Figure 5.2 Foreign Citizen Graduate Enrollment in US Science and Engineering Universities, 1983-1993 Source: NSF, 1996.
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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH Table 5.1 Decline in US Admissions of Immigrant Scientists and Engineers, FY 93–FY 94 Occupation FY 1993 FY 1994 Percentage change Engineers 14,497 10,793 -26 Natural scientists 3,901 3,104 -20 Mathematical scientists and computer specialists 4,157 2,781 -33 Social scientists 979 725 -26 Total 23,534 17,403 -26 Source: NSF 1997. Although the attraction of talented scientists from less well developed countries will continue, foreign nationals working as materials scientists within the United States are now being heavily recruited by their native countries. Europe, Korea, and Taiwan are enticing scientists working in the United States to return home, and these countries also have begun to attract American researchers. This loss of talent is somewhat offset by the globalization of research and development, permitting US corporations to hire outstanding young scientists at offshore research and development locations. Driven by economic factors and global competitiveness, the trend toward establishing US research facilities abroad is expected to continue. Reciprocal establishment of foreign research facilities within the continental United States has occurred, and continues to be dynamic, but the magnitude of researchers involved may still be overwhelming the system. There are at least 5 issues that affect the future ability of materials programs to attract high quality graduate students. First, there is a continuing need to recruit students from other engineering or science fields. For example, science and engineering research in electronic and optical materials has benefited greatly from interdisciplinary work. Recruitment will be facilitated by a broader national recognition and acceptance of materials science and engineering as a distinct academic discipline. This acceptance seems less prevalent here than it is in some other countries. Second, foreign countries—Korea, Taiwan, China, India, Singapore, Hong Kong—have been the source of graduate students for US programs in many fields, particularly materials science and engineering. Most of these countries have been investing heavily to improve their own academic programs, especially in the various subfields of materials deemed important for the health of their national economies. The recent economic upheaval in Asian countries is likely to affect the flow of students to the United States—although how or to what extent is not clear. Moreover, not all countries in Asia are at the same stage of industrial development, so the drain of bright young people from some of these countries, such as Korea and Singapore, could soon abate. Thus, the number of students in developing countries who seek graduate education abroad might not decrease as quickly as projected, but the mix could change. The United States should be concerned, however, about the degree to which it can continue to compete to attract bright young people from abroad. For example, Korea recently began to accept postdoctoral fellows from China. Japan has been encouraging its universities to
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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH accept postdoctoral fellows and PhD students from other Asian countries. The same is true for Europe, where there are programs among European Community countries at the postdoctoral and professional levels. One can expect increasing competition for talented students by all developed countries around the world, and the expected demographic decrease in the number of young people in developed countries will make the competition for the brightest even tougher. The greater the degree to which the United States continues to make efforts to make its society active, open, and attractive, the better its chances of attracting a significant fraction of talent pool. As other countries become more successful in retaining or repatriating their top scientists and engineers, there will be a need to replace them by attracting more US students into PhD programs in materials science and engineering. Third, the supply of graduate students is directly related to the economy. Few US students pursue graduate education without financial support, so a decline in research funding results in fewer students ' pursuing graduate degrees. Moreover, a strong job market for those with bachelor's and masterís degrees, particularly for people with an interest in materials, decreases the pool of PhD candidates. These effects are now acting in concert in the United States. Fourth, materials science and engineering researchers, particularly in industry, must keep constantly up with new developments and research opportunities in the field. Graduate fellowships and educational programs conducted either on-site or “beamed” to industry via satellite from universities are a critical element of leadership. Fifth, attracting more women and minorities into graduate programs in materials science and engineering is not only essential to achieving greater diversity in academia, government, and industry leadership, but it is also an important means of offsetting our current dependence on foreign sources of PhD talent. The field should be able to benefit from the variety of undergraduate preparations that might attract a greater diversity of talent into graduate materials programs. 5.3. Funding Whereas US industry and government are shifting funds toward short-term research, many other countries, notably Japan, are increasing long-term and basic research funding. Many US companies have eliminated corporate or central research laboratories to more closely align research and development with immediate business opportunities. Materials research in universities has been sponsored mainly by the federal government. The mission-oriented agencies (principally DOD and the DOE) have provided the most support for a range of fundamental materials research. In particular, DOD has supported about 60% of academic research in the field. The National Science Foundation funding for basic materials research continues to be available (Figure 3.6, Figure 3.7 and Figure 3.8) but the recent shift in DOD funding has placed more emphasis on topics of strict military relevance. The consequence will be a curtailment of federal funding for new dual-use materials concepts and small-group research efforts formerly supported by DOD. Some of these new concepts are essential to DOD and to nondefense sectors of the US economy. A rebalancing of the overall federal research and development funding strategy could be needed to enable materials research in all areas to continue: Otherwise, important developments
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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH in key subfields could lag behind in world competition. Many university researchers have had positive experiences with industrial research collaborations. Although some academic researchers have turned to industry for financial support, in many cases, industry-funded research is of shorter duration and, compared with federal grants, has a specific, short-term focus. Some research projects are conducted under contract terms that capture intellectual properties, protect confidentiality, restrict publication, and require detailed planning and reporting of progress. These conditions rarely attract top graduate talent to the research effort. The areas in which industrial research collaborations can be most valuable are materials synthesis and processing, where special equipment not generally found in universities is required to achieve process control and to evaluate sequencing protocols and scaling parameters. 5.4. Infrastructure The quality of the basic research infrastructure and the development of new technology from research strongly influence the long-term health of materials research. The position of the US research enterprise will be determined by the elevation or decline of this infrastructure, which, in this context, is defined broadly to include tangible (facilities) and intangible (supporting policies and services) elements. Several trends for the elements of this infrastructure have been identified: The university structure in which the materials science and engineering organization resides strongly influences the fortunes of the discipline. The high quality of academic leadership in materials science and engineering and the excellence of the scientific research enterprise have placed the discipline in a position of strength at most of the top research universities in the United States. The prominence of materials science in nonacademic institutions (industry and government agencies) is also well established here and abroad. Maintaining the high scientific and engineering quality of management of materials research organizations within industry and government agencies is critical to the US competitive position. These organizations contribute to the knowledge base through basic research in technologically relevant areas. The most advanced information and communication networks available are being used in materials science research. Internet and video conferencing, electronic journals, international distance learning, and distant collaborative research are commonplace. The convergence of voice, data and video systems have made possible the routine use of real-time 3-D imaging and other supercomputing aids for modeling and simulation of materials structures, interfaces, phenomena, and behavior during processing. Sophisticated characterization instruments and processing facilities are essential for advancement in materials research. US facilities have instrumentation that is on par with the best in the world. However, rapid advances in design and capabilities of instrumentation can create obsolescence in 5–8 years. The integration and overall quality of the characterization services that support US universities and industrial organizations has lost substantial ground to organizations in Japan
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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH and Europe. Fortunately, characterization facilities at US national laboratories are among the best. Also, an increasing number of high-quality commercial laboratories are becoming accessible to academic and industrial researchers. Small-scale equipment for materials synthesis and processing in most US universities is not keeping pace with similar equipment at some universities abroad. Capabilities in US industry for supplying bulk single crystals and other specialty research materials also have declined. As a result, US researchers are becoming increasingly dependent on foreign sources. Forward-looking intellectual property policies, administrative support, and access to patent expertise are improving for US academic researchers in materials science. These policies are generally more flexible and advanced here than they are abroad. The anticipated continuing liberalization of rules that permit academic researchers to commercialize their inventions is a positive step toward decreasing the time from invention to market. Another positive step is the growing assistance from the universities in finding industrial commercialization partners. A supportive public (and thus legislature) is a valued element of the intangible infrastructure. Educating the public about the importance of materials should receive increasing attention. Innovative, attention grabbing methods are needed to convey that everything is made of something, whether a natural or synthetic material. Highlighting materials research contributions to major national initiatives is valuable in sustaining public support for the field. Federal laboratories and the national laboratories of DOE are critical in providing unique facilities for research, they have instrumentation no single university could afford to put in place. An important complement is the availability of world-class scientists who engage in long-term fundamental research, provide assistance through research collaborations with the user community, and provide advanced instrumentation design and methods. Although the US has enjoyed a research and funding environment that allows for the installation and operation of a diverse range of facilities to support leading-edge research in materials, this position is not assured forever. There are two major challenges that must be addressed with a systematic policy. Requirements for fabrication and processing facilities will change as research emphases evolve. For example, even though the microelectromagnetic systems (MEMS) field has become active, very few sites are equipped to fabricate MEMS devices, especially in support of the science and engineering research communities. Therefore, most of the materials community is excluded from research opportunities in this field. There are other examples in films, coatings, composites, and integrated sensors. Greater attention is needed to making the best fabrication and processing facilities available to top research teams. In some subfields, this problem has been addressed by collocating fabrication facilities and research teams, such as the nanofabrication facility at Cornell University. In other instances, flexible foundries, such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Metal-Oxide Semiconductor implementation Service, have been made available to top researchers around the country. Large central facilities, such as neutron and synchrotron sources, electron microscopy centers, and analytical facilities, many of them at DOE laboratories, must be continuously
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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH upgraded and maintained. Funding trends and changing priorities for federal agencies and NSF raise concerns about whether large-scale facilities can keep pace. In some areas, such as neutron scattering, US facilities have not kept up with foreign competition. 5.5. Cooperative Government–Industrial–Academic Research Maintaining a competitive advantage in materials science depends on strong collaborations between government, industry, and academia. As industrial research focuses even more on materials technologies with short-term (2–3 year) technology–product impact, execution of longer term (5–10 year) basic and innovative exploratory research at universities and national laboratories will require even closer interactions. Basic research in these areas is a vital aspect of knowledge-based materials science, as verified by the continued university hiring of researchers with industrial experience. Collaborative research is accomplished in several foreign countries by individuals with joint academic–commercial appointments and through publicly supported research institutes linked to universities (similar to many US national laboratories) that serve industry's need for longer term research. One challenge is also a major opportunity for a government–university–industry initiative: There is a 15-year cycle time in many cases from the scientific feasibility of a new material to its engineering implementation. There is a need for continuity of support and a general recognition of the time it takes to go from observation to hypothesis to experimentation to discovery to implementation. A reduction in this schedule could be realized through modeling and simulation, as applied to fabrication, processing yields, performance, and reliability. There are clearly defined, mutually supportive, roles for academia, government, and industry where they can work together. For example, the US semiconductor industry has set up a 15-year road map, and such initiatives are in place in other countries. The DOE advanced-supercomputer initiative is a similar effort to develop new computer methods for the simulation of nuclear weapons. Industry interest for cooperative programs is strong, but direct industry financing seems impossible to organize. Federal funding by explicit policies does not address this issue, nor is such activity subsumed into ERCs, STCs; and MURIs (see earlier discussion on centers) for which materials research and development is complementary to principal scientific and technology goals. Center programs are needed to put this capability in place in the United States. Without better organized government–industry–university efforts in this area, new materials will be more effectively exploited by other countries. A novel approach that deserves more widespread use is the establishment of virtual industrial–academic institutes or centers for materials technology development. Some models already exist outside the materials field—in manufacturing, food processing, and biotechnology—that allow complex, high-risk, long-term basic research in areas with tremendous technological potential to be attacked synergystically. Establishment of new private– public sector partnerships to fund virtual centers would be helpful.