The charge to the Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century constitutes a challenge both daunting and exhilarating: To recommend to the nation specific steps that can best strengthen the quality of life in America—our prosperity, our health, our security. This chapter is an overview of the committee’s methods for arriving at its recommendations and for identifying the specific steps it proposes for their implementation. Chapters 5-8 identify the committee’s list of action items. Appendix E is an overview of the committee’s investment cost of its proposed actions and programs. Appendix F provides the rationale for the K–12 programs proposed in Chapter 5.
Despite a demanding schedule for completion of the study, members reviewed literature and case studies, studied the results of other expert panels, and convened focus groups with expertise in K–12 education, higher education, research, innovation and workforce issues, and national and homeland security to arrive at a slate of recommendations.
The focus groups, involving over 66 individual experts, were asked to identify, within their issue areas, the three recommendations they believed were of the highest urgency. The results became raw material for the committee’s discussion of recommendations. The committee later met numerous times via conference call to refine its recommendations as it consulted with additional experts. Final coordination involved extensive e-mail interactions as the committee sought to avail itself of the technology that is pervading modern decision-making and making the world “flat,” in the words of Thomas Friedman (see Chapter 1).
REVIEW OF LITERATURE AND PAST COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS
Before meeting in person, the committee requested a compilation of the results of past studies on the topics it was likely to address. Appendix D provides these background papers on topics such as science, mathematics, and technology education; research funding and productivity; the environment for innovation; and science and technology issues in national and homeland security.
The committee used those documents as a means to review the work of many other groups. Some were individual writers and scholars1 and others were blue ribbon groups, such as the one chaired by former Senator John Glenn, which produced the report Before It’s Too Late2 for the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century and others at the Council on Competitiveness,3 Center for Strategic and International Studies,4 Business Roundtable,5 Taskforce on the Future of American Innovation,6 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology,7 National Science Board,8 and other National Academies committees, such as those which produced A Patent System for the 21st Century,9 Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States,10 and Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facili-
ties.11 Others were the committee and analyst at other organizations who have gone before us producing reports focusing on the topics discussed in this report. There are too many to mention here, but they are cited throughout the report and range from individual scholars to the Glenn Commission on K–12 education, the Council on Competitiveness, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the National Science Board, and other National Academies committees. Such work and the reaction to it once published were invaluable to the committee’s deliberations.
The committee decided to provide a “box” in each chapter containing alternative points of view as captured in a review of existing reports, studies, reviewer comments, and informal consultations with experts and policy-makers.
The committee examined numerous case studies to gain a better understanding of which policies had the most potential to influence national prosperity. For example, many of the recommendations on K–12 and higher education rely on extrapolating successful state or local programs to the national level. The committee also reviewed existing federal programs for higher education and research policy that work well in one place and could potentially be applicable to other parts of the federal infrastructure. The committee also studied other nations’ experiences in implementing policy changes to encourage innovation.
The focus groups (Appendix C) convened experts in five broad areas—K–12 education, higher education, science and technology research policy, innovation and workforce issues, and homeland security. Group members were asked to identify ways the United States can successfully compete, prosper, and be secure in the global community of the 21st century.
Their contributions were compiled with the results of the literature search and with recommendations gathered during committee interviews. More than 150 concrete recommendations and implementation steps were identified and discussed at a weekend focus group session in Washington, DC. Each focus group, following its own discussions, presented its top three proposed recommendations to the committee members and to other focus-group participants.
COMMITTEE DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
The committee itself met over that same weekend and then in weekly conference calls. Using the focus-group recommendations as a starting point,
the committee developed four key recommendations (labeled A through D in this report), which it ranked, and 20 actions to implement them. It assigned ratings of either most urgent or urgent to each of the four recommendations. They are summarized here. Specific implementing actions are discussed in later sections of this report.
10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds, and K–12 Science and Mathematics Education. Increase America’s talent pool by vastly improving K–12 science and mathematics education.
Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research. Sustain and strengthen the nation’s traditional commitment to long-term basic research that has the potential to be transformational to maintain the flow of new ideas that fuel the economy, provide security, and enhance the quality of life.
Best and Brightest in Science and Engineering Higher Education. Make the United States the most attractive setting in which to study and perform research so that we can develop, recruit, and retain the best and brightest students, scientists, and engineers from within the United States and throughout the world.
Incentives for Innovation. Ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world to innovate; invest in downstream activities such as manufacturing and marketing; and create high-paying jobs that are based on innovation by modernizing the patent system, realigning tax policies to encourage innovation and the location of resulting facilities in the United States, and ensuring affordable broadband access.
Unless the nation has the science and engineering experts and the resources to generate new ideas, and unless it encourages the transition of those ideas through policies that enhance the innovation environment, we will not continue to prosper in an age of globalization. Each recommendation represents one element of an interdependent system essential for US prosperity.
Some of the committee’s proposed actions and programs involve changes in the law. Some require substantial investment. Funding would ideally come from reallocation of existing funds, but if necessary, via new funds. The committee believes the investments are small relative to the return the nation can expect in the creation of new high-quality jobs, inas-
much as economic studies show that the social rate of return on federal and private investment in research is often 30% or more (Tables 2-1 and 2-2). The committee fully recognizes the extant demands on the federal budget, but it believes that few problems facing the nation have more profound implications for America than the one addressed herein and, thus believes, that the investment it entails should be given high priority.
The committee has been cautious in its analysis of information. However, the available information is, in some instances, insufficient for the committee’s needs. In addition, the limited timeframe to develop the report (10 weeks from the time of the committee’s meeting to report release) is inadequate to conduct an independent analysis. Even if unlimited time were available, definitive analysis of many issues is simply not possible given the uncertainties involved.
The recommendations in this report rely heavily on the experience, consensus views, and judgments of the committee members. Although the committee consists of leaders from academe, industry, and government—including several current and former industry chief executive officers, university presidents, researchers (including three Nobel prize winners), and former presidential appointees—the array of topics and policies covered in this study is so broad that it was impossible to assemble a committee of 20 members with directly relevant expertise in each. The committee has therefore relied heavily on the judgments of experts in the study’s focus groups, additional consultations with other experts, and the panel of 37 expert reviewers.
The recommendations herein should be subjected to continuing evaluation and refinement. In particular, the committee encourages regular evaluations to determine the efficacy of its policy recommendations in reaching the nation’s goals. If the proposals prove successful, more investment may be warranted. If not, programs should be modified or dropped from the portfolio.
The committee’s recommendations are the fundamental actions the nation should take if it is to prosper in the 21st century. Just as “reading, writing, and arithmetic” are essential for any student to succeed—regardless of career—“education, research, and innovation” are essential if the nation is to succeed in providing jobs for its citizenry.