ENGINEERING RESEARCH AND AMERICA’S FUTURE
MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF A GLOBAL ECONOMY
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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NOTICE: To arrive at the findings and recommendations of this report, the National Academy of Engineering has used a process that involves careful selection of a balanced and knowledgeable committee, assembly of relevant information, and peer review of the resultant report. Over time, this process has been proven to produce authoritative and balanced results.
This study is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. EEC-0432712. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility of advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
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COMMITTEE TO ASSESS THE CAPACITY OF THE U.S. ENGINEERING RESEARCH ENTERPRISE
JAMES J. DUDERSTADT (NAE), chair,
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
ERICH BLOCH (NAE),
Washington Advisory Group LLC, Washington, D.C.
RAY M. BOWEN,
Texas A&M University, College Station
BARRY HOROWITZ (NAE),
University of Virginia, Charlottesville
LEE L. HUNTSMAN,
University of Washington, Seattle
JAMES H. JOHNSON JR.,
Howard University, Washington, D.C.
KRISTINA M. JOHNSON,
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
LINDA P.B. KATEHI,
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
DAVID C. MOWERY,
University of California, Berkeley
CHERRY A. MURRAY (NAE, NAS),
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California
MALCOLM R. O’NEILL,
Lockheed Martin Corporation, Bethesda, Maryland
Semiconductor Industry Association, San Jose, California
ERNEST T. SMERDON (NAE),
University of Arizona, Tucson
ROBERT F. SPROULL (NAE),
Sun Microsystems Inc., Burlington, Massachusetts
DAVID N. WORMLEY,
Pennsylvania State University, University Park
NAE PROGRAM OFFICE STAFF
PROCTOR P. REID, Study Director and Director, Program Office
CAROL R. ARENBERG, Senior Editor, National Academy of Engineering
PENELOPE J. GIBBS, Program Associate
THOMAS C. MAHONEY, Consultant
Leadership ininnovation is essential to U.S. prosperity and security. In a global, knowledge-driven economy, technological innovation—the transformation of new knowledge into products, processes, and services of value to society—is critical to competitiveness, long-term productivity growth, and an improved quality of life. Preeminence in technological innovation depends on a wide array of factors, one of which is leadership in engineering research, education, and practice. A three-decade-long decline in the share of federal investment in research and development (R&D) devotedto engineering and a perceived erosion of basic, long-term engineering research capability in U.S. industry and federal laboratories have raised serious questions about the long-term health of engineering research in the United States.
To assess and document the current state of the U.S. engineering research enterprise and to raise awareness of the critical role of engineering research in maintaining U.S. technological leadership, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) initiated the current study. The focus of the study is primarily on academic research because of its importance to long-term basic engineering research and to educating future engineers and engineering researchers. The study is based on the opinions and judgments of a 15-member committee of experts from industry and universities. The committee’s deliberations were informed by testimony from key decision makers and policy makers in the federal government, as well as a detailed review of many recent studies on national R&D policy, investment patterns, needs, and shortcomings.
Reports by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, National Science Board, U.S. Department of Energy Science Advisory Board, Council on Competitiveness, National Research Council, and others have consistently emphasized the importance of basic research in engineering and physical sciences and expressed concerns about the adequacy of federal investments in critical fields. The study finds that support for engineering research has been relatively stagnant for more than two decades. The result has been erosion in the infrastructure necessary for world-class engineering research and a worrisome decline in the number of engineering graduates, particularly native-born doctoral degree recipients. As other nations increase their investments in engineering research and education, the United States risks falling behind in critical research capabilities and ultimately the innovations that flow from research. To ensure continued U.S. competitiveness, the nation needs a renewed commitment to engineering research, most importantly by the federal government, but also by states, foundations, industry, and universities.
The committee recommends a number of actions to stimulate rapid changes in the current situation. The committee also recognizes the need for bold steps that will lead to
long-term changes, not only in the level of resources available for basic engineering research, but also in the cultural environment that must attract the best and brightest individuals to pursue careers in engineering research. The committee proposes the creation of discovery-innovation institutes on the campuses of American research universities as a mechanism for achieving long-term change. By harnessing the intellectual power, diversity, and creativity on the nation’s campuses and working in close collaboration with industry and government, discovery-innovation institutes can be engines of innovation.
On behalf of the National Academy of Engineering, I want to thank the study chairman, James J. Duderstadt, and other members of the study committee for their considerable efforts on this project. I also want to thank Proctor P. Reid, the study director, who managed the project and helped the committee members reach consensus. Thomas C. Mahoney, consultant to the committee, was extremely helpful throughout the project. Penelope Gibbs from the NAE Program Office provided critical administrative and logistical support. Carol Arenberg, NAE senior editor, was instrumental in preparing the report for publication.
I want to extend the committee’s thanks to everyone from government, industry, and academia who contributed to the project. In particular, I want to express our appreciation to everyone who briefed the committee and everyone who submitted comments during the period of public review.
Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to the National Science Foundation for its generous support of this project.
National Academy of Engineering
This report by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Committee to Assess the Capacity of the U.S. Engineering Research Enterprise was reviewed in three stages. The draft form was first reviewed by individuals with diverse perspectives and technical expertise chosen in accordance with procedures approved by NAE. The purpose of the stage-one peer review was to elicit candid, critical comments to assist the committee in making the preliminary report as sound as possible and to ensure that institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge had been met. The reviewers were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations and did not see the final draft of the preliminary report before its release for the stage-two public review. The stage-one review was overseen by Maxine Savitz, an NAE member appointed by NAE to ensure that an independent examination of the preliminary report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered.
We wish to thank the following individuals for participating in the stage-one review: Craig R. Barrett, Intel Corporation; G. Wayne Clough, Georgia Institute of Technology; Siegfried S. Hecker, Los Alamos National Laboratory; C. Dan Mote Jr., University of Maryland; Karl S. Pister, University of California, Berkeley; William F. Powers, Ford Motor Company (ret.); and John A. White Jr., University of Arkansas.
In stage-two, the revised report was posted on the NAE website for 30 days for review by a larger cross section of the engineering community and the general public. During stage two of the review process, engineering leaders and other major stakeholders in the U.S. engineering enterprise had an opportunity to provide feedback on the preliminary report. All comments received during the stage-two public review were made anonymous and forwarded to the authoring committee. The committee considered all comments and revised the report accordingly.
The report was then submitted to a third and final peer review, which was also overseen by NAE member Maxine Savitz. Individuals for the stage-three review were chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by NAE. We thank the following individuals for participating in the stage-three review: Siegfried S. Hecker, Los Alamos National Laboratory; Robert M. Nerem, Georgia Institute of Technology; Laurence C. Seifert, AT&T Corporation (ret.); Morris Tanenbaum, AT&T Corporation (ret.); and Vince Vitto, Charles Stark Draper Laboratories.
Review comments received during all three reviews, as well as the original pre-review of the draft manuscript, remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. Responsibility for the final content of the report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
CHARGE TO THE COMMITTEE
The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Committee to Assess the Capacity of the U.S. Engineering Research Enterprise was charged by the Engineering Directorate of the National Science Foundation with conducting a “fast-track” evaluation of (1) the past and potential impact of the U.S. engineering research enterprise on the nation’s economy, quality of life, security, and global leadership and (2) the adequacy of public and private investment to sustain U.S. preeminence in basic engineering research.
A two-decade-long decline in the share of federal investment in research and development devoted to engineering and the perceived erosion of basic, long-term engineering research capability in U.S. industry and federal laboratories have raised serious questions about the long-term health of engineering research in the United States. To address these concerns, this report documents and evaluates recent contributions of U.S.-based engineering research to the nation’s interests, assesses potential contributions to meeting emerging national challenges and opportunities, and outlines a national strategy to ensure that the engineering research foundations of American global economic, military, scientific, and technological preeminence remain rock solid in the face of rapid, often disruptive, societal and global change. The report includes findings, recommendations, and a national action plan designed to engage all major constituents of the U.S. engineering enterprise.
PROCESS FOLLOWED BY THE COMMITTEE
The committee met three times during the summer of 2004. In addition to a substantive review of recent studies and policy analyses related to science and engineering activities and investments, the committee heard testimony from leaders in government, industry, and academia. This report is based on a consensus of the committee members and responses to a three-stage NAE peer-review and public-review process.