THE COMPETITIVENESS EQUATION— THE SUPPLY OF SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS
It should be emphasized that the goal of the National Academies’ Gathering Storm committee was not to produce more scientists and engineers merely for the sake of filling employment slots. Scientists and engineers today make up only 4% of US employment; even doubling their number would in itself have a modest overall impact on the economy. Rather, the point is that scientists and engineers contribute disproportionately to the creation of jobs for the other 96% of the nation’s workforce by generating knowledge, by innovating, and by establishing new companies based on that knowledge and innovation.
It should also be noted that the Gathering Storm committee’s intense focus on science, mathematics, and engineering was in no way intended to diminish the importance of other academic skills that are critical for survival in a knowledge world, with reading being foremost among these “other” skills. (In the most recent international test, US 15-year-olds ranked in 17th place in reading literacy.) The committee’s emphasis on science, mathematics, and technology is merely a reflection of the growing pervasiveness of these fields in creating jobs and solving other societal problems, of the precarious state of today’s K-12 education in the United States in these fields and, of course, of the National Academies’ own principal expertise.
Although the nation will need a cadre of extraordinary people well versed in such fields as microbiology, information sciences, and nanotechnology—“bio, info, nano”—
such people will represent a relatively small part of the nation’s employment base. The remainder of our citizenry will need to be sufficiently science-literate to survive and contribute in the high-technology world we are all entering. British novelist C.P. Snow used to delight in asking acquaintances whether they could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. When they failed, as they almost invariably did, he would point out that his question was the technologic equivalent of asking, Have you ever read any Shakespeare? In the same vein, Walter Isaacson, president of the Aspen Institute, has observed that “scientific illiteracy is sometimes worn as a badge of pride. Most educated people would be ashamed to admit they didn’t know the difference between Hamlet and King Lear, but they might jovially brag that they don’t know a gene from a chromosome or relativity theory from the uncertainty principle.” Admittedly, not everyone needs to be a rocket scientist (most of them, incidentally, are engineers, not scientists!), but everyone will need at least to be functional in using basic mathematics and science and as familiar with a computer as their parents were with an automobile.
Engineers and scientists are, admittedly, not always particularly helpful in making that necessity a reality. Software programmers are notorious in this regard, having developed an entire “language space” of their own, speaking whole sentences without using anything but acronyms. In fact, most engineers don’t even know what words many of the common engineering acronyms they use, such as “laser” and “radar,” represent. Engineers design computers so that often we must click on “start” to turn them off. We must press the “All On” button to turn off our television set remotely. I adhere to the principle that normal people believe “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” whereas engineers believe “if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough functions yet.” Whatever the case, this is life in the fast lane, the only lane in the world in which we live, and those who cannot keep up seem destined to become road-kill on the information highway.
Despite the unprecedented explosion of scientific knowledge that has occurred in recent decades and its pervasive impact on our lives, a 2004 National Science Board survey revealed that almost 30% of America’s adults do not know that Earth revolves around the sun, 22% do not know that the center of Earth is very hot, and over half do not know that electrons are smaller than atoms. Only half the population is aware that dinosaurs and humans never coexisted. Another poll indicated that at least 25% of American adults believe in astrology—no doubt more than believe in the principles of astronomy. And, according to a NASA survey, fully 15% of America’s adults do not believe that humans have gone to the moon.
The not-too-astounding conclusion of the National Academies competitiveness study is that in a knowledge age we will need people with knowledge. And we will need a few
people with extraordinary knowledge, particularly in science and engineering. Nobel laureate Julius Axelrod was probably guilty of understatement when he observed that “99% of the discoveries are made by 1% of the scientists.” It would seem that one cannot make up for the lack of an Einstein with legions of less-capable scientists.
But the trends in America’s scientific and engineering workforce are not encouraging:
During the past 2 decades, part of an era that has been described as science and engineering’s greatest period of accomplishment, the numbers of engineers, mathematicians, physical scientists, and geoscientists graduating with bachelor’s degrees in the United States have declined by 18%. The proportion of university students achieving bachelor’s degrees in these fields has declined by almost 40% during that time.
Almost twice as many bachelor’s degrees were awarded in physics the year before Sputnik, deemed a time of dangerous educational neglect, as last year.
The number of engineering doctorates awarded by US universities to US citizens dropped by 23% in the past decade.
In 2002, Asian countries as a whole awarded 636,000 first engineering degrees, European countries awarded 370,000, and North America awarded 122,000.
The US share of the global output of doctorates in science and engineering declined from 52% in 1986 to 22% in 2003.
The United States ranks 17th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering, a fall from third place three decades ago. It ranks 26th in the proportion receiving undergraduate degrees in mathematics.
The share of doctoral degrees awarded by US universities in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics to US citizens dropped from 65% in 1987 to 53% in 2005 (although the composition of this group was not uniform—for example, 84% of the degrees in psychology go to US citizens).
In a recent contest of college software programmers, only two US universities’ teams were in the top dozen finishers. Until the past few years, US universities dominated the demanding test.
Fewer than 15% of US high-school graduates have sufficient mathematics and science credentials to even begin pursuing an engineering degree.
There are more temporary residents than US citizens enrolled in graduate-level information-technology pursuits in US universities.
Since 1982, a period during which the cost of living increased by 95%, the net cost of higher education (base cost minus grant aid) increased by 375%—even outstripping the increase in the cost of medical care (223%).
According to Department of Education statistics, the United States is graduating more visual-arts and performing-arts majors than engineers.
The US ranks eighth in the fraction of its citizens obtaining college degrees (in all fields).
According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the number of students enrolled in higher education in China at the graduate and undergraduate levels each increased by a factor of 5 over the most recent decade.
Although the United States ranks fifth among 27 developed nations in the proportion of college-age youth who enter college, it ranks 16th in the fraction of those who complete college (with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent).
According to Nobel laureate Richard Smalley, by 2010, 90% of all scientists and engineers with PhDs will be living in Asia.
China graduates more English-speaking engineers than the United States.
Estimates of the numbers of various types of engineers being produced in China vary widely. One apparently conservative estimate states that in 2003 China graduated about 350,000 engineers, including computer scientists and information technologists, with 4-year degrees, and the United States about 140,000. If one considers only traditional engineering degrees, the comparison becomes about 250,000 vs 60,000. Similarly, China graduated 290,000 students with 3-year degrees (including computer scientists and infor-
mation technologists), and the United States about 85,000 with either 2- or 3-year degrees. According to Adnan Akay using data from the National Science Foundation, “The number of new PhD graduates in engineering in the US between 1983 and 2003 increased by 89%” (with most of the increase being foreign students) “while in Japan the increase was 204%, in South Korea 1858% and in Taiwan 4586%. The number of engineering PhD graduates in China increased 306% in only eight years.”
Such comparisons are difficult to derive because of fundamental differences in educational systems in various countries around the world. For example, is an engineer who studied 3 years for 11 months each year less of an engineer than one who studied 4 years for 8 months each year? Most US universities’ academic year for classes comprises only about half the weeks in a calendar year. Debating the nuances of the issue seems to offer about as much enlightenment as arguing how many engineers can dance on the head of a pin. But the forest seems abundantly clear, if not each individual tree.
Comparative data on the combination of science and engineering degrees are even more uncertain. The Economist reports that India graduated 690,000 scientists and engineers of all types while China produced 520,000 and the United States 420,000. By any measure, America’s position is eroding rapidly. The operative question is, What will be the end state? Speaking to a group of political leaders in our nation’s capital, Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, shared his opinion on the topic: “We had more sports-exercise majors graduate than electrical engineering graduates last year. If you want to become the massage capital of the world, you’re well on your way.”
Punctuating that perspective, China’s President Hu, speaking of the role of technology, recently stated that “the worldwide competition of overall national strength is actually a competition for talents, especially for innovative talents.”
The supply of scientists and engineers does not affect only the competitiveness of acknowledged high-technology companies, such as Intel, Merck, and AOL. Consider the words attributed in the Forbes CEO Forum to Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx: “As FedEx grew, it had to become a technology company as much as a transport company.” Also consider Procter & Gamble, perhaps best known for its diapers, soap, and toothpaste. Two of the most recent CEOs of that company have each described the firm as an R&D company, and its head of R&D has publicly stated that over the next 5 years, three-fourths of the firm’s projected growth depends on advances in science and engineering. It has been amply demonstrated that if a firm loses its lead in innovation, it can lose market share in diapers just as fast as in jet engines.
Given the immense population disparities among nations, America cannot reasonably hope to produce the same number of engineers as, say, China or India. Nor does it need to do so. What is needed is not more engineers capable of performing relatively routine engineering functions—those jobs have already been commoditized and will continue to move abroad—but more engineers capable of creative, innovative thinking, engineers who can challenge the status quo and “see around corners,” engineers who are entrepreneurs, and engineers whose ideas are bounded only by a solid understanding of the fundamental physical laws of nature.
The balance of power in science and engineering can tip rapidly. Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel Corp., has pointed out that 90% of the products that his firm ships on December 31 generally did not even exist on January 1 of the same year, and the pace of innovation continues to increase. It took 38 years to install indoor toilets in half of America’s homes, 30 years to electrify half the homes, 25 years to place radios in a corresponding share, 7 years for television, and so on.
It is not difficult to convince me, as but one person, of the speed at which technology advances. I began my career using a slide rule—three sticks of wood and two pieces of glass—to perform engineering calculations, the middle of my career was punctuated by the landing of 12 of my friends on the moon, and the final phase of my career was shaped by something called the Internet. Yet nowhere in my experience have I observed anything approaching the revolutionary change that has taken place in much of China since the first of my visits to that country in the late 1970s. At that time, just 30 years ago, all adults—male and female alike—wore the obligatory “Mao suits.” Hotels were few, cars and motorbikes were rare, bicycles seemingly everywhere, and the appearance of a Caucasian was cause for the gathering of large and curious crowds, particularly if the visitor happened to be carrying a Polaroid camera. Research laboratories were populated with primitive Soviet-style hand-me-down equipment; “clean” rooms had exposed concrete floors. To say that all that has changed would be an extreme understatement.
There are, of course, the “soft”—yet important—aspects of the science and engineering workforce issue: the social aspects. In one recent survey, when young Americans were asked whether they associated scientists with several pejorative terms provided by the pollsters, 70% of the respondents advised that they did. Geoffrey Orsak, of Southern Methodist University has written that “it is a sad reality that other young students from across the globe are clamoring to be admitted into engineering schools, yet US students who spend much of their day talking on cell phones created by engineers, driving cars
designed by engineers, and surfing the Internet made faster and more engaging by engineers, are passing [the profession] for other opportunities.”
The attractiveness—or, more precisely, the unattractiveness—of a career in science or engineering, at least as seen through the eyes of much of America’s youth, becomes evident when one examines trends in graduation statistics. The number of traditional bachelor of engineering degrees (excluding computer science) awarded by US universities each year has, as already noted, declined by 18% over the past 20 years. And the number of doctorates in engineering awarded to US citizens by US universities has declined by 23% in the past decade alone. In contrast, over the most recent 2 decades, the number of law degrees granted each year by US law schools has increased by over 20% and the number of master’s degrees in business administration has increased by 108%. In absolute terms, the most recent data available from America’s universities show nearly 44,000 students receiving law degrees, nearly 140,000 receiving MBA’s, and over 64,000 receiving bachelor’s of science in engineering and 6,400 receiving PhDs in engineering (of whom 33% are US citizens). In other terms, counting only US citizens, for every new (PhD) engineering researcher, the nation produces about one (PhD) physical scientist, 18 lawyers, and 50 MBAs. The implicit strategy seems to be to sue ourselves to prosperity, or perhaps to do so through financial “engineering.”
In many countries, particularly developing countries, young people are eager to advance their lives through careers in science or engineering. These professions are viewed as ultraprestigious and, as has been the case in the United States, as entry professions for students who are in the first generation in their family to attend college (as was the case for me). In South Korea, 38% of undergraduates receive their undergraduate degrees in the natural sciences or engineering. In France, the corresponding figure is 47%; in China, 50% (the National Intelligence Council reports the figure for China to be 64%.); in Russia, 31%; in Singapore, 67%; and in the United States, 15%. Correspondingly, of international graduate students attending US universities, about 70% are majoring in engineering, physical science, life science, social science, or business.
In recent years, the number of US high-school students who expressed an interest in becoming scientists or engineers dropped from 36% to 6%. Today, fewer than 2% of US high-school graduates eventually receive engineering degrees from US universities (and very few study these fields abroad). In the case of women and minorities, the corresponding proportions are each less than 1%.
Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer, states that “if you ask most [US] kids when they’re really young, what do you want to be, they’re more likely to
tell you they want to be Tiger Woods or Britney Spears … than a scientist or engineer. When you go to China and ask that question, they actually answer Bill Gates.” And Bill Gates himself warns, “We simply cannot sustain an economy based on innovation unless our citizens are educated in mathematics, science, and engineering.” It might be noted that his cause was not aided by a recent full-page article in The Washington Post on how to get good grades in college. Number 2 on the list was “Don’t major in engineering.” According to The Post, college success “does not correlate” with “picking unusually demanding and precision-loving majors, particularly engineering, with exams that require the exact answer and not some lively written analysis of why exactitude is no longer applicable in a post-modern age.”
In the United States, many engineers, including me, refer to themselves, actually rather proudly, as “geeks” or “nerds.” (Although most of us probably privately envy astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a giant of both mind and body, who declares that in high school “I was a nerd who could kick your butt!”) As was once said, “Be nice to nerds. Chances are one day you’ll end up working for one!” In a brief moment of imagined grandeur, I once proposed creating a television series called “L.A. Engineer.” Astronaut Neil Armstrong describes himself as “a white-socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer.” Most US youths can’t name a single Nobel laureate (in any field), but they know who Snoop Dogg and Allen Iverson are. Similarly, most Americans have no idea who Bob Noyce or Jack Kilby or Bob Kahn is, even though these people arguably changed the lives of Americans as much as virtually anyone who lived during the past century. When a Harris poll asked Americans to name a living scientist, virtually no one was able to do so.
Part of this unfamiliarity probably stems from the fact that as they pursue their primary and secondary education, few American youths ever come into contact with a practicing engineer or scientist. It is indicative of that local nonprominence that a few years ago at a meeting of American university presidents and the presidents of seven Chinese universities, the US representatives were a Renaissance scholar, an economist, a political scientist, a linguist, a lawyer, and a mechanical engineer, and the Chinese delegation constituted of six physicists and an engineer.
George Heilmeier, a former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), recently wrote that when he visits Russia he especially likes to go to the movies. “In Russia,” he explains, “the engineer always gets the girl!”
Therein lies yet another aspect of the problem: women receive only 20% of the engineering bachelor’s degrees and 17% of the engineering doctorates awarded by US universities. Nearly half the nation’s high-school physics students are female, yet women
make up only 18% of doctorate recipients in physics. Women constitute 46% of the US workforce, but only 23% of the science and engineering workforce. Members of underrepresented minority groups receive disproportionately smaller shares of science and engineering degrees. For example, blacks and Hispanics, each making up about 12% of the total US population, each receive fewer than 5% of the bachelor’s degrees and doctorates awarded in those fields (recently there were encouraging signs of an up-turn).
The overall record reflects a serious loss of potential talent in a nation that is struggling to compete with much more populous nations in an intense global marketplace. Furthermore, the tendency of the above groups to avoid science and engineering pursuits will become an even greater handicap in the future in that blacks and Hispanics constitute an increasing fraction of America’s population and women an increasing fraction of America’s (overall) college graduates. In 1970, 24% fewer women than men received bachelor’s degrees; today, 35% more women than men receive such degrees. In fact, the number of white male US citizens receiving PhDs in engineering has declined by about 40% in three decades.
To a great extent, America has been living off foreign-born talent in science and engineering for many years. For example, during the most recent 15-year period, over one-third of US scientists who received Nobel prizes were foreign-born. One-fourth of the degreed professionals in the entire US science and engineering workforce are foreign-born. Of the PhDs in the US science and engineering workforce, 38% are foreign-born. Significantly, of those under 45 years old, 52% are foreign-born. Of engineering doctorates from US universities, 67% are granted to non-US citizens, and 40% of US engineering faculties are foreign-born. Of America’s science and technology “postdocs,” 58% are not US citizens. Sixty percent of the finalists at a recent Intel Science Talent Search were immigrants or the children of immigrants—and 46% of the members of the US physics team and 65% of the top US scorers in the mathematics Olympiad were the children of immigrants.
The following list of surnames of speakers representing US universities at a recent (2003) communications conference is suggestive of the contribution of immigrants and the families of immigrants to America’s science community: Farhaug-Boroujeny, Zhou, Blum, Deng, Hu, Seyedi, Poor, Kuo, Cioffi, Ding, Wang, Zaman, Zhang, Song, Alouini, Li, Liang, Han, Wiegandt, Hwang, Negi, Goldsmith, Larsson, Giannakis, Huang, Haimovich, Reed, Saulnier, Wu, Toumkakaris, Gardan, Wang, Lin, Papandreou-Suppappola, Zhang, Xia, Arora, Ambati, Zhu, Liu, Li, Nassar, Zekavat, Kang, Gamal, Qin, Zhang, Garcia-Frias, Yu, Li, Mitra, Yu, Ouzzif, Li, Mumtaz, Yan, Digham, Zhang, Tureli, Roy, Kang, Wu, Toumkis, and Poovendran.
The year 2005 (the most recent year for which data are available) saw a moderate overall increase in doctorates awarded in science and engineering by US universities; however, the 1-year gain was almost entirely attributable to non-US citizens. A Nobel laureate at one major university told me that of 50 applications by students to conduct graduate research in his laboratory, 49 came from China. Only one came from the United States.
Not only are we dependent on the rest of the world for energy (two-thirds of our petroleum comes from abroad) and for financial capital (70% of the world’s surplus savings now comes to the United States), we are also becoming dependent on others for our brains. Reflecting that fact, Sudha Ramachandran, writing in Asia Times, warns that “the US will have to accept that with Americans lagging behind in tech skills, its economy doesn’t just need immigrant brain power, it is dependent on it.”
Tom Friedman writes about his attendance at Rensselaer’s 2007 graduation: “The foreign names kept coming—‘Hong Lu, Xu Xie, Tao Yuan, Fu Tang’—I thought that the entire class of doctoral students in physics were going to be Chinese, until ‘Paul Shane Morrow’ saved the day….My complaint … was that there wasn’t someone from the Immigration and Naturalization Service standing [there] stapling green cards to the diplomas of each of these foreign-born PhDs.” In fact, it can be responsibly argued that America’s scientific enterprise would virtually cease to function without the foreign-born talent that makes up such a crucial part of it.
Translating the new scientific knowledge that this enterprise generates into products and jobs is the province of innovation and entrepreneurship, and in this realm immigrants have made equally great contributions. Examples over the years range from steel magnate Andrew Carnegie (Scotland) and publisher Joseph Pulitzer (Hungary) to Yahoo! cofounder Jerry Yang (Taiwan), Sun Microsystems cofounders Andreas Bechtolsheim (Germany) and Vinod Khosla (India), eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (France), Intel founder Andy Grove (Hungary), and Sergey Brin (Russia), who cofounded Google. Immigrants have created 25% of all venture-backed public firms in the United States and 40% of those in the high-technology manufacturing industry, although legal immigrants make up only 9% of the total US population. A recent survey conducted at Duke University shows that immigrants from India and China (mainland and Taiwan) alone were key founders of almost 30% of all Silicon Valley startups. This research, which covers the 1995-2005 period, shows that 52% of Silicon Valley startups were formed by immigrants. The predominant group in the earlier period was Chinese; during the latter period, Indians were most prominent. A further study conducted at the University of Colorado indicates that for every 100 foreign
students who receive science or engineering doctorates at US universities, 62 future patent applications result.
“Yahoo! would not be an American company today if the United States had not welcomed my family and me almost 30 years ago,” says Jerry Yang.
Foreign applications to US graduate schools plummeted after 9/11, in part because of the implementation of more stringent visa controls, in part because of growing prosperity elsewhere in the world, and in part because of a perceived “less welcoming” America. With regard to the former, Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria writes that “every visa officer today lives in fear that he will let in the next Mohammad Atta. As a result, he is probably keeping out the next Bill Gates.” Zakaria might have added Wernher von Braun, Edward Teller, and Albert Einstein, to name but a few others.
Last year saw a 13% rebound in student and exchange visas granted as visa processes were modified, but applications by foreign students to US universities are still below the level of 3 years ago and enrollments from critical countries, such as India and Japan, continue to decline. David Heenan, the author of Flight Capital, calculates that several hundred foreign-born professionals leave the United States every day. In the case of China, returnees to their native country are referred to as “sea turtles” and make up a remarkable 81% of the membership of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In some fields, such as particle physics, international meetings are now rarely held in the United States, because of uncertainties and delays in obtaining visas. Verne Harnish, the founder of Gazelles, an executive advisory firm for high-growth companies, is reported in Fortune as saying, “We’re just not friendly any more.”
Viewed from the perspective of the bright young foreign student, growing prosperity elsewhere in the world has opened a whole realm of possibility: “innovation without emigration.” Opportunities for meaningful employment, as well as a high quality education, are markedly increasing in many parts of the world. At a recent National Academy of Engineering workshop, Theodore Rappaport, of the University of Texas, reported that of the 57 major research initiatives recently affecting the telecommunication field, all but five originated outside the United States. He believes that as a result US students have lost interest in entering graduate school to pursue research in the field. As though to punctuate his observation, CISCO recently announced that in the next 3 years it would be moving 20% of the positions held by its senior managers in Silicon Valley to Bangalore. Perhaps most astonishing, when asked in spring 2005 “What is the most attractive place in the world in which to lead a good life?,” respondents in only one of the 16 countries polled answered “the United States.” That represents a truly profound shift from views held during most of the prior century.
Many foreign countries are, in fact, intensifying their efforts to attract bright young international students. The Chinese Vice Minister of Education announced China’s plan to provide scholarships for 11,000 foreign students in 2007 to augment the 140,000 international students said already to be studying in China. Singapore has indicated its goal to increase its foreign student enrollment from 70,000 in 2006 to 150,000 by 2012. Malaysia intends to boost the foreign student population in its universities from 70,000 in 2006 to 100,000 by 2010.
Further complicating America’s increasingly tenuous competitiveness position, Congress a few years ago cut the annual allotment of visas for people with critical skills by two-thirds, from 195,000 down to 65,000, that is, to 0.02% of the US population. Meanwhile, an estimated 7-12 million people reside in the US illegally, and 50,000 immigrants arrive each year by virtue of a purely random drawing. In 2007, the fiscal year visa quota for immigrants with critical skills was filled 5 months before the fiscal year even began.
Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that to obtain a student visa to enter the United States, a foreign national must promise to return home after receiving his or her degree— not infrequently to help some foreign employer compete against US firms. For candidates seeking a US student visa to state that they wish to study in the United States so that they can remain in America and start a firm that employs US citizens is a sure ticket to somewhere else. That is a consequence of Section 214(b) of the Immigration Act of 1952— (un)popularly known as the “go-away clause”—which specifies that visitors must prove to the satisfaction of a US consular official that they will not remain in the United States after they obtain their degrees from US universities—usually on scholarships originally funded by US corporations or private citizens.
Chad Holliday, the CEO of DuPont, offers a perspective that is not atypical of American business as a whole: “If the US doesn’t get its act together,” he warns, “DuPont is going to go to the countries that do.” Jim Jarrett, vice president of Intel, echoes that sentiment: “We go to where the smart people are and there are smart people all around the world.” And it is not only the business community that is taking such a stance. US investors are buying foreign stocks at an unprecedented rate, and US consumers are purchasing 40% of their cars from Asian-based companies. In one recent quarter, Toyota sold more cars than Ford in the United States. Even the new CEO of Ford drove a Japanese car … until he became CEO of Ford! Unions decry management’s decisions to move plants abroad, but their members generally make purchases and investments on the basis of their personal judgment of best value, not country of origin.
Political observer Norm Ornstein writes in Roll Call, “A few years back I helped supervise a project to create a comprehensive software package for presidential [appointee] nominees to use to fill out all the disclosure and conflict-of-interest forms. The American software company doing the work could not complete it, and the only place we could go to get it done well and on time was Mumbai. The software engineers there did a great job—and ended up knowing more about the intricacies of the American executive branch nomination and confirmation process than most scholars who teach about it.”