BOX 1.1
Major Factors Driving Change in Research and Development

  • Replacement of defense objectives by civilian and commercial needs for research and development

  • Global competition and growing concern about America’s global impact

  • The fast pace of innovation

  • The information age, the Internet, and changing organization and operational practices

  • The increased complexity of important scientific problems, emerging technologies, and societal problems

  • The growing understanding between science and technology generators and decision makers

All of these factors have an impact on graduate education in particular and on the overall educational framework as well.

RESULTS OF THE 1995 NSF WORKSHOP

About 100 people, including students, participated in the day-and-a-half meeting at the NSF. They came up with a series of findings, which led to a series of recommendations.1

The first finding relates to funding. In 1995 we were concerned about facing a large budget deficit and about the little discretionary money available because of the combined expenses of national security and social programs. This constraint on funding was a major concern at that time. It still exists even in today’s economic boom in the sense that we have to compete with other entities for the public dollar, and we can no longer depend on our role in national security to give us a preemptive right to resources. Now we have to compete for available funds and demonstrate our value.

While federal research dollars have not declined, the shift away from military spending has caused significant dislocations in many institutions. We are in a process of completing our adjustments to the shift in spending priorities. Because of this transition, the workshop participants concluded that we should develop programs that address social priorities. In other words, if military expenditures were going to go down, what would go up? The needs identified were social concerns, concerns associated with the economy, and concerns associated with the quality of life. If we wanted to develop and apply for new resources in those directions, it would be important for us to demonstrate the value to society of the academic research enterprise and provide concrete benefits, similar to what had been done in the national security area.

The second finding was supported heavily by the industrial participants. They observed that, by and large, the students coming from graduate programs were not well prepared to contribute within an industrial setting. On one hand, our educational enterprise is the envy of the world. Students from around the world come to study here. Yet, the participants at that workshop believed strongly that

1  

National Science Foundation Workshop Report: Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Training in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Report NSF 96-21 (Office of the Assistant Directorate for Mathematics and Physical Sciences, NSF, 1996). The workshop summary report can be found on the NSF Web site at <http://www.nsf.gov/mps/workshop.htm>.



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