America is driven by innovation—advances in ideas, products, and processes that create new industries and jobs, spur economic growth and support a high standard of living, and achieve national goals for defense, health, and energy. In the last half-century, innovation in turn has been increasingly driven by educated people and the knowledge they produce. Our nation’s primary source of both new knowledge and graduates with advanced skills continues to be its research universities.
These institutions, with the strong and sustained support of government and working in partnership with American industry, are widely recognized as the best in the world, admired for both their research and their education. They are, however, confronted by many pressures: the economic challenges faced by the nation and the states, the emergence of global competitors, changing demographics, and rapidly evolving technologies. Even as other nations around the world have emulated the United States in building research universities to drive economic growth, America’s commitment to sustaining the research partnership that built a great industrial nation has weakened under these pressures.
Expressing concern that the nation’s universities are at risk, U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Barbara Mikulski and U.S. Representatives Bart Gordon and Ralph Hall in 2009 asked the National Academies to assess the competitive position of American research universities, both public and private, and to respond to the following question: “What are the top ten actions that Congress, state governments, research universities, and others can take to maintain the excellence in research and doctoral education needed to help the United States compete, prosper, and
achieve national goals for health, energy, the environment, and security in the global community of the 21st century?”
In response, the National Research Council (NRC) convened a committee of individuals who are leaders in academia, industry, government, and national laboratories. In selecting the committee, the NRC sought not only balance across sectors, but also diversity among academic institutions, balance across fields, and wide geographic distribution, including individuals with significant international experience. This report is the committee’s response to its charge.
We believe that America’s research universities are, today, a key asset for our nation’s future. They are so because of the considered and deliberate decisions made in the past by policy makers, even in difficult times. Our future now depends on the willingness of our current policy makers to follow their example and make the decisions that will allow us to continue to compete, prosper, and shape our destiny. It is essential that we as a nation reaffirm, revitalize, and strengthen substantially the unique partnership that has long existed among the nation’s research universities, the federal government, the states, and philanthropy by enhancing their roles and linkages and also providing incentives for stronger partnership with business and industry. In doing so, we will encourage the ideas and innovations that will lead to more high-end jobs, increasing middle-class incomes, and the security, health, and prosperity we expect.
In the course of our history, America has set and accomplished grand goals that have defined us as a nation. Our national assets strongly position the United States to accomplish our current goals and lead the world in the 21st century. However, the relative rankings of the United States in the global knowledge economy at a time when new knowledge and technological innovation are critical to economic growth and other national goals have shown that other countries increasingly are investing in their own competitiveness.
As America pursues economic growth and other national goals, its research universities have emerged as a major national asset perhaps even its most potent one. This did not happen by accident; it is the result of prescient and deliberate federal and state policies. These began with the Morrill Act of 1862 and subsequent land-grant acts that established a partnership between the federal government and the states in building universities that would address the challenges of creating a modern agricultural and industrial economy for the twentieth century. They were amplified as the partnership was powerfully rebuilt in the decades following World War II. The importance of government-sponsored univer-
sity research intensified during the World War II partnership that led to breakthrough discoveries that helped win the war, including radar, the proximity fuse, penicillin, DDT, the computer, jet propulsion, and the atomic bomb.1 Drawing on this experience, the government-university partnership was expanded in the 1950s and 1960s to contribute to national security, public health, and economic growth. Through this expanded partnership, basic research as the source of new ideas for the long term would be increasingly funded by the federal government and largely concentrated in the nation’s research universities.
The results of this federal-state-university partnership have had great impact on our nation’s economy, health, and other national achievements. Talented graduates of these institutions have created and populated many new businesses that go on to employ millions of Americans. As Jonathan Cole, former provost of Columbia University, relates, “The laser, magnetic-resonance imaging, FM radio, the algorithm for Google searches, global-positioning systems, DNA fingerprinting, fetal monitoring, bar codes, transistors, improved weather forecasting, mainframe computers, scientific cattle breeding, advanced methods of surveying public opinion, even Viagra had their origins in America’s research universities. Those are only a few of the tens of thousands of advances, originating on those campuses that have transformed the world.”2
In addition to their high productivity, the exceptional stature of American research universities globally can be measured in several additional ways. In global rankings, U.S. research universities typically account for 35 to 40 of the top 50 such institutions in the world. Since the 1930s, roughly 60 percent of Nobel Prizes have been awarded to scholars at American institutions. More international students enroll in U.S. research universities than their counterparts elsewhere.
Despite their current global leadership, American research universities are facing critical challenges. First, their financial health is endangered as each of their major sources of revenue has been undermined or contested. Federal funding for research has flattened or declined; in the face of economic pressures and changing policy priorities, states are either unwilling or unable to continue support for their public research universities at world-class levels; endowments have deteriorated significantly in the recent recession; and tuition has risen beyond the reach of many American families. At the same time, research universities also face
1 Hugh Davis Graham and Nancy Diamond, The Rise of American Research Universities: Elites and Challengers in the Postwar Era. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997, p. 28.
2 Jonathan Cole, Can American research universities remain the best in the world? The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 3, 2010.
strong forces of change that present both challenges and opportunities: demographic shifts in the U.S. population, transformative technologies, changes in the organization and scale of research, a global intensification of research networks, and changing relationships between research universities and industry.
In addition, U.S. universities face growing competition from their counterparts abroad, and the nation’s global leadership in higher education, unassailable for a generation, is now threatened. Our research universities have brought to this country the most outstanding students and scholars from around the world, and these individuals have contributed substantially to our research and innovative capacity. Now, other nations recognize the importance of world-class research universities and are rapidly strengthening their institutions to compete for the best international students and for faculty, resources, and reputation. These countries have developed national strategies for education and research and are also offering attractive opportunities to repatriate their citizens who are graduates of U.S. universities.
With these developments in mind, we have identified a set of specific challenges and opportunities that a reasoned set of policies must address in order to produce the greatest return to our society, our security, and our economy. The first group identifies issues in the partnership among the federal government, states, business, and universities:
• Federal funding for university research has been unstable and, in real terms, declining at a time when other countries have increased funding for research and development (R&D), both in nominal terms and as a percentage of gross domestic product.
• State funding for higher education, already eroding in real terms for more than two decades, has been cut further in the recent recession.
• Business and industry have largely dismantled the large corporate research laboratories that drove American industrial leadership in the twentieth century (e.g., Bell Labs), but have not yet fully partnered with our research universities to fill the gap at a time when we need to more effectively translate, disseminate, and transfer into society the new knowledge and ideas that emerge from university research.
• Research universities need to be responsive to stakeholders by improving management, productivity, and cost efficiency in both administration and academics.
The second group identifies issues that affect the operations of universities, the efficient administration of university research, the effectiveness of doctoral education, and the robustness of the pipeline of new talent:
• Insufficient opportunities for young faculty to launch academic careers and research programs;
• Underinvestment in campus infrastructure, particularly in cyberinfrastructure, that can lead to long-term increases in productivity, cost-effectiveness, and innovation in research, education, and administration;
• Research sponsors that do not pay the full cost of research they procure, meaning that universities have to cross-subsidize research from other sources;
• A burdensome accumulation of federal and state regulatory and reporting requirements that increases costs and sometimes challenges academic freedom and integrity;
• Opportunities to improve doctoral and postdoctoral preparation that increase both its productivity and its effectiveness in providing training for highly productive careers;
• Demographic change in the U.S. population that necessitates strategies for increasing the success of female and underrepresented minority students; and
• Competition for international students, researchers, and scholars.
The principles and recommendations that follow are designed to help federal and state policy makers, universities, and businesses overcome these hurdles and capitalize on these opportunities. Strong leadership—and partnership—will be needed by these parties if our research universities and our nation are to thrive.
For the past half-century, the research and graduate programs of America’s research universities have been essential contributors to the nation’s prosperity, health, and security. Today, our nation faces new challenges, a time of rapid and profound economic, social, and political transformation driven by the growth in knowledge and innovation. Educated people, the knowledge they produce, and the innovation and entrepreneurial skills they possess, particularly in the fields of science and engineering, have become the keys to America’s future.
We have taken stock of the organizational, financial, and intellectual health of our nation’s research universities today and have envisioned the role we would like them to play in our nation’s life 10 to 20 years from now. We can say without reservation that our research universities are, today, the best in the world and an important resource for our nation, yet at the same time, they are in grave danger of not only losing their place of global leadership but of serious erosion in quality due to critical trends in public support.
Our vision for strengthening these institutions so that they may remain dynamic assets over the coming decades involves both increasing their productivity and ensuring their strong support for education and research. Therefore, it is essential that the unique partnership that has long existed among the nation’s research universities, the federal government, the states, and business and industry be reaffirmed and strengthened. This will require
• A balanced set of commitments by each of the partners—federal government, state governments, research universities, and business and industry—to provide leadership for the nation in a knowledge-intensive world and to develop and implement enlightened policies, efficient operating practices, and necessary investments.
• Use of matching requirements among these commitments that provide strong incentives for participation at comparable levels by each partner.
• Sufficient flexibility to accommodate differences among research universities and the diversity of their various stakeholders. While merit, impact, and need should continue to be the primary criteria for awarding research grants and contracts by federal agencies, investment in infrastructure should consider additional criteria such as regional and/or cross-institutional partnerships, program focus, and opportunities for building significant research capacity.
• A commitment to a decade-long effort that seeks to both address challenges and take advantage of opportunities as they emerge.
• A recognition of the importance of supporting the comprehensive nature of the research university, spanning the full spectrum of academic and professional disciplines, including the physical, life, social, and behavioral sciences; engineering; the arts and humanities; and the professions, that enable it to provide the broad research and education programs required by a knowledge- and innovation-driven global economy.
Within this partnership, our research universities—with a historical commitment to excellence, academic freedom, and service to society—must pledge themselves to a new level of partnership with government and business; recommit to being the places where the best minds in the world want to work, think, educate, and create new ideas; and commit to delivering better outcomes for each dollar spent.
The United States can best leverage research universities for the breakthroughs it needs by ensuring they are properly resourced, increasingly
productive, agile and innovative, and working creatively in partnership with business. With that in mind, we recommend that the federal government, the states, research universities, and business and industry take the following actions that reinforce their partnership:
Within the broader framework of United States innovation and research and development (R&D) strategies, the federal government should adopt stable and effective policies, practices, and funding for university-performed R&D and graduate education so that the nation will have a stream of new knowledge and educated people to power our future, helping us meet national goals and ensure prosperity and security.
Actors and Actions—Implementing Recommendation 1:
• Federal government: The federal government should review and modify those research policies and practices governing university research and graduate education that have become burdensome and inefficient, such as research cost reimbursement, unnecessary regulation, and awkward variation and coordination among federal agencies. (See Recommendations 6 and 7.)
• Federal government—Congress, Administration, federal science and technology (S&T) agencies: Over the next decade as the economy improves, Congress and the administration should invest in basic research and graduate education at a level sufficient to produce the new knowledge and educated citizens necessary to achieve national goals. As a core component of a national plan to raise total national R&D to 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), Congress and the Administration should provide full funding of the amount authorized by the America COMPETES Act that would double the level of basic research conducted by the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science as well as sustain our nation’s investment in other key areas of basic research, including biomedical research. Within this investment, as recommend by Rising Above the Gathering Storm,3 a portion of the increase should be directed to high-risk, innovative, and unconventional research.
• Federal government—White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), President’s Council of Advisors on Science and
3 National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Bright Economic Future, Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2007.
Technology (PCAST), U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), National Economic Council (NEC), and Council of Economic Advisors (CEA): On an annual basis in the President’s annual budget request, OMB should develop and present, in coordination with OSTP, a federal science and technology budget that addresses priorities for sustaining a world-class U.S. science and technology enterprise. On a quadrennial basis, OSTP, in conjunction with PCAST, and OMB, in conjunction with the NEC and CEA, should review federal science and technology spending and outcomes, internationally benchmarked, to ensure that federal S&T spending is adequate in size to support our economy and appropriately targeted to meet national goals. We recommend that this process consider U.S. global leadership, a focus on developing new knowledge, balance in the science and technology portfolio, reliable and predictable streams of funding, and a commitment to merit review.
This recommendation calls for stable and effective federal research policies and practices, the budget implications of which are outlined under several recommendations below. The recommendation also aims to ensure robust financial support for critical federal basic research programs. It supports funding increases that Congress has already authorized through the America COMPETES Act for the doubling of funding for the NSF, NIST, and DOE Office of Science. These increases target stronger investment in physical sciences and engineering research, but do not imply any disinvestment in critical fields such as the life sciences and social, behavioral, and economic sciences. Indeed, we recommend Congressional action to at least maintain current levels of funding for basic research across other federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as adjusted for inflation. Research universities, along with other research performers (national laboratories, nonprofit research and development organizations, and industry), will only benefit from these actions through their success in competing for federal grants and contracts from these agencies.
Supportive federal research policies would ensure stable funding and cost-efficient regulation sufficient to enable corresponding university investment in research facilities and graduate programs. By completing the funding of the America COMPETES Act, the nation would achieve a balanced research portfolio capable of driving innovation necessary for economic prosperity. As research and education are deliberately in-
tertwined in our American research universities, such funding will also ensure that we continue to produce the scientists, engineers, physicians, teachers, scholars, and other knowledge professionals essential to the nation’s security, health, and prosperity.
Provide greater autonomy for public research universities so that these institutions may leverage local and regional strengths to compete strategically and respond with agility to new opportunities. At the same time, restore state appropriations for higher education, including graduate education and research, to levels that allow public research universities to operate at world-class levels.
Actors and Actions—Implementing Recommendation 2:
• State governments: States should move rapidly to provide their public research universities with sufficient autonomy and agility to navigate an extended period with limited state support. (See also regulatory environment, below.)
• State governments: For states to compete for the prosperity and welfare of their citizens in a knowledge- and innovation-driven global economy, the advanced education, research, and innovation programs provided by their research universities are absolutely essential. Hence, as state budgets recover from the current recession, states should strive to restore and maintain per-student funding for higher education, including public research universities, to the mean level for the 15-year period 1987-2002, as adjusted for inflation.4
• Federal government: To provide further incentives for state actions to protect the quality of public research universities as both a state and a national asset, federal programs designed to stimulate innovation and workforce development at the state level, including those recommended in this report, should be accompanied by strong incentives to stimulate and sustain state support for their public universities.
4 A 15-year period was used so as to ensure the funding recommendation was not unduly influenced by year-to-year fluctuations in state appropriations. The year 2002 was used as the endpoint of the period, as that year represents the beginning of a period of significant decline in appropriations.
This recommendation addresses the alarming erosion in state support of higher education over the past decade that has put the quality and capacity of public research universities at great risk. While the committee urges the states to strive to restore over time appropriation cuts to public research universities estimated to average 25 percent (and ranging as high as 50 percent for some universities),5 it acknowledges that current state budget challenges and shifting state priorities may make this very difficult in the near term. Hence, the committee views as equally important a strong recommendation that the states provide their public research universities with sufficient autonomy and ability to navigate what could be an extended period with inadequate state funding. The committee strongly believes that such recommendations are in the long-term interests of both the states and the nation.
State appropriations per enrolled student have declined by 25 percent or more over the past two decades, resulting in the need for universities to increase tuition or reduce activities, or quality. As states strive to compete in a knowledge- and innovation-driven global economy, restoring state appropriations to levels sufficient to maintain advanced education, research, and innovation programs provided by research universities is absolutely essential for the prosperity and welfare of their citizens. Increasing the autonomy and agility of public research universities should increase their efficiency and productivity as well as their ability to respond to changing state and regional needs during an extended period when states may not be able to restore adequate support.
5 The National Science Board reports, “Over the decade [2002 to 2010], per-student state support to major research universities dropped by an average of 20 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. In 10 states, the decline ranged from 30 percent to 48 percent.” National Science Board, Science and Engineering Indicators 2012, p. 8-68. Available at: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind12/pdf/c08.pdf (accessed March 8, 2012). The states have enacted further and deeper cuts in 2011 and 2012, which suggests an overall decline for 2002-2012 of at least 25 percent. For example, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) recently reported, “FY 2012 state appropriations [for higher education] (including a small residual of ARRA funding) were $72.5 billion, a decrease of 7.6 percent from $78.5 billion in FY 2011.” See SHEEO, “Commentary on FY 2012 state appropriations for higher education,” press release, January 23, 2012. Available at: http://grapevine.illinoisstate.edu/tables/FY12/SHEEO%20Commentary%20(2).pdf (accessed March 8, 2012).
Strengthen the business role in the research partnership, facilitating the transfer of knowledge, ideas, and technology to society and accelerate “time to innovation” in order to achieve our national goals.
Actors and Actions—Implementing Recommendation 3:
• Federal government: Continue to fund and expand research support mechanisms that promote collaboration and innovation.
• Federal government: Within the context of also making the R&D tax credit permanent, implement new tax policies that incentivize business to develop partnerships with universities (and others as warranted) for research that results in new U.S.-located economic activities.
• Business, universities: The relationship between business and higher education should evolve into more of a peer-to-peer nature, stressing collaboration in areas of joint interest rather than the traditional customer-supplier relationship in which business procures graduates and intellectual property from universities.
• Business, universities: Business and universities should work closely together to develop new graduate degree programs that address strategic workforce gaps for science-based employers.
• National laboratories, business, universities: Collaboration among research by the nation’s national laboratories, business, and universities should also be encouraged, since the latter’s capacity for large-scale, sustained research projects both supports and depends critically on both the participation of university faculty and graduate students and the marketplace.
• Universities: Improve management of intellectual property to improve technology transfer.
Tax policies that create incentives for new university-industry research and development partnerships will have a cost to the federal budget as a “tax expenditure.” Although we are not in a position to estimate what that cost would be, it would be a relatively minor component of the cost of current proposals to make permanent the R&D tax credit.
Effective use of research support mechanisms that promote collaboration will lead to the creation and efficient use of knowledge to achieve national goals.
The outcomes from the new tax policies would be new research partnerships; new knowledge and ideas; new products, processes, and industries located in the United States; economic growth; and new jobs. The outcomes from these efforts would be the creation of new partnerships, new knowledge and ideas, achieving national goals in key policy areas, and the economic growth and jobs that result from new activity.
Improvements in university management of intellectual property will result in more effective dissemination of research results, generating economic activity and jobs.
Increase university cost-effectiveness and productivity in order to provide a greater return on investment for taxpayers, philanthropists, corporations, foundations, and other research sponsors.
Actors and Actions—Implementing Recommendation 4:
• Universities: The nation’s research universities should set and achieve bold goals in cost-containment, efficiency, and productivity in business operations and academic programs. Universities should strive to constrain the cost escalation of all ongoing activities—academic and auxiliary—to the inflation rate or lower through improved efficiency and productivity. Beyond the implementation of efficient business practices, universities should review existing academic programs from the perspectives of centrality, quality, and cost-effectiveness, adopting modern instructional methods such as cyberlearning, and encouraging greater collaboration among research investigators and institutions, particularly in the acquisition and utilization of expensive research equipment and facilities.
• University associations: University associations should develop and implement more powerful and strategic tools for financial management and cost accounting that better enable universities to determine the most effective methods for containing costs and increasing productivity and efficiency. As part of this effort, they should develop metrics that allow universities to communicate their cost-effectiveness to the general public.
• Universities, working together with key stakeholders: Universi-
ties and key stakeholders should intensify efforts to educate key audiences about the unique character of U.S. research universities and their importance to state, regional, and national goals, including economic prosperity, public health, and national security.
There may be an initial cost to institutions as they examine their operations in order to identify actions that will increase efficiency and as they invest in new infrastructure. In the long term, however, research universities will reap the rewards of these investments through greater productivity. Many institutions have already demonstrated that significant cost efficiencies are attainable. If research universities can take action, states and the nation will realize greater returns on their investments, and the savings associated with cost containment and greater productivity can then be deployed to other priorities such as constraining tuition increases (a major national concern), increasing student financial aid, or launching new programs.
By increasing cost-effectiveness and productivity, institutions will realize significant cost savings in their operations that may be used to improve performance by shifting resources strategically and/or to reduce growth in their need for resources (e.g., tuition). There are many ways to do this, but one of the easiest is to implement a “priority fund” in which the base funding of ongoing activities is reduced by 1 percent or so each year (with the “savings” reallocated to new university priorities).
Create a “Strategic Investment Program” that funds initiatives at research universities critical to advancing education and research in areas of key national priority.
Actors and Actions—Implementing Recommendation 5:
• Federal government: The federal government should create a new “Strategic Investment Program” supporting initiatives that advance education and research at the nation’s research universities. The program is designed to be a “living” program that responds to changing needs and opportunities. As such, it will be composed of term-limited initiatives requiring matching grants in critical areas that will change over time. The
committee recommends the program begin with two 10-year initiatives: (1) an endowed faculty chairs program to facilitate the careers of young investigators and (2) a research infrastructure program initially focused on advancement of campus cyberinfrastructure, but perhaps evolving later to address as well emerging needs for physical research infrastructure as they arise. The federal investments in human capital and research infrastructure are intended for both public and private research universities. They require matching funds that different types of institutions may obtain from different sources. For example, public research universities may secure their matching funds from states sources, while private research universities may obtain their matches from private sources. However, the source that a particular institution taps for matching funds is not prescribed, so public and private institutions may draw from state support, philanthropy, business, or other sources for matching funds. While merit, impact, and need should continue to be important criteria for the awarding of grants, consideration should also be given to regional and/or cross-institutional partnerships, program focus, and opportunities for building significant research capacity, subject, of course, to the matching requirements for the federal grants.
• Universities in partnership with state governments, business, philanthropy, and others: Universities should compete for funding under these initiatives, bringing in partners—states, business, philanthropy, others—that will support projects by providing required matching funds.
In addition to increases in federal funding for basic research (in Recommendation 1), the committee recommends federal support for these first two initiatives in the program that will cost $7 billion per year over the next decade. These funds will leverage an additional $9 billion per year through matching grants from other partners.
This program develops and leverages the human-, physical-, and cyberinfrastructures necessary for cutting-edge research and advanced education. Of particular importance is the investment in rapidly evolving cyberinfrastructure that will increase productivity and collaboration in research, but may also provide opportunities to increase productivity in administration and education. Also of critical importance is the endowment of chairs, particularly for promising young faculty, during a time of serious financial stress and limited faculty retirements. This will ensure
that we are building our research faculty for the future, as we can reap the rewards of their work over the long term.
The federal government and other research sponsors should strive to cover the full costs of research projects and other activities they procure from research universities in a consistent and transparent manner.
Actors and Actions—Implementing Recommendation 6:
• Federal government and research sponsors: The federal government and other research sponsors should strive to support the full cost, direct and indirect, of research and other activities they procure from research universities so that it is no longer necessary to subsidize these sponsored grants by allocating resources (e.g., undergraduate tuition and patient fees for clinical care) away from other important university missions. Both sponsored research policies and cost recovery negotiations should be developed and applied in a consistent fashion across all federal agencies and academic institutions, public and private.
Federal coverage of a higher portion of indirect costs would, at the margins, shift part of federal research funding from direct to indirect costs, so there will be no net change in cost to the federal government.
This change will allow our research universities to hold steady or reduce the amount of their funding from other sources, such as tuition revenue or patient clinical fees that they have had to provide for research procured by the federal government, amounts that have increased over the past two decades. Consequently, they will be able to use the flexibility this provides to allocate their resources from other sources more strategically for their intended purpose.
Reduce or eliminate regulations that increase administrative costs, impede research productivity, and deflect creative energy without substantially improving the research environment.
Actors and Actions—Implementing Recommendation 7:
• Federal government (OMB, Congress, agencies), state governments: Federal and state policy makers and regulators should review the costs and benefits of federal and state regulations, eliminating those that are redundant, ineffective, inappropriately applied to the higher education sector, or impose costs that outweigh the benefits to society.
• Federal government: The federal government should also harmonize regulations and reporting requirements across federal agencies so universities can maintain one system for all federal requirements rather than several, thereby reducing costs.
While the staff time-to-review regulatory and reporting requirements has a small, short-term cost, the savings to universities and federal and state governments over the long term will be substantial. Quantifying the burdens is difficult, so it is not feasible to estimate the savings in advance of a review, but we believe they could run into the billions of dollars over the next decade.
Reducing or eliminating regulations can reduce administrative costs, enhance productivity, and increase the agility of institutions. We agree with the conclusion of the Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and Council on Governmental Relations that “minimizing administrative and compliance costs ultimately will also provide a cost benefit to the federal government and to university administrators, faculty, and students by freeing up resources and time to directly support educational and research efforts.”6 With greater resources and freedom, they will be better positioned to respond to the needs of their constituents in an increasingly competitive environment.
Improve the capacity of graduate programs to attract talented students by addressing issues such as attrition rates, time to degree, fund-
6 Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and Committee on Government Relations, Regulatory and Financial Reform of Federal Research Policy: Recommendations to the NRC Committee on Research Universities, January 21, 2011. Available at: http://www.aau.edu/policy/reports_presentations.aspx.
ing and alignment with both student career opportunities and national interests.
Actors and Actions—Implementing Recommendation 8:
• Research universities: Research universities should restructure doctoral education to enhance pathways for talented undergraduates, improve completion rates, shorten time-to-degree, and strengthen the preparation of graduates for careers both in and beyond the academy.
• Research universities, federal agencies: Research universities and federal agencies should ensure, as they implement the above measures, that they improve education across the full spectrum of research university graduate programs, because of the increasing breadth of academic and professional disciplines necessary to address the challenges facing our changing world, including the physical, life, social, and behavioral sciences; engineering; the arts and humanities; and the professions.
• Federal government: The federal government should significantly increase its support for graduate education through balanced programs of fellowships, traineeships, and research assistantships provided by all science agencies dependent upon individuals with advanced training.
• Employers: Business, government agencies, and nonprofits that hire master’s- and doctorate-level graduates should more deeply engage programs in research universities to provide internships, student projects, advice on curriculum design, and real-time information on employment opportunities.
Increasing the number of federal fellowships and traineeships to support 5,000 new graduate students per year in science and engineering would amount to $325 million in year one, climbing to a steady state expenditure of $1.625 billion per year. This funding is not designed to increase the overall numbers of doctoral students per se, but to provide incentives for students to pursue areas of national need and to shift support from the research assistantship to mechanisms that strengthen doctoral training. At the same time that the committee recommends increased federal funding for graduate education, the implementation of other aspects of our recommendation will also save money for the federal government, universities, and students. Reducing attrition and time-to-degree in doctoral programs, for example, will increase the cost-effectiveness of federal and other investments in this area.
Improving pathways will ensure that we draw strongly from among the “best and brightest” for our nation’s future doctorates in science and engineering fields that are critical to our nation’s future.
Improving completion rates and shortening time-to-degree to an optimal length is the right thing to do for students and also increases cost-effectiveness, ensuring good stewardship of resources from the federal government and other sources.
Strengthening preparation of doctorates for a broad range of careers, not just those in academia, assists the students in their careers, and also assists employers who need their staff to be productive in the short term. This benefits new doctorates, employers, and society.
Secure for the United States the full benefits of education for all Americans, including women and underrepresented minorities, in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.
Actors and Actions—Implementing Recommendation 9:
• Research universities: Research universities should engage in efforts to improve education for all students at all levels in the United States by engaging in outreach to K–12 school districts and undertaking efforts to improve access and completion in their own institutions.
• Research universities: Research universities should assist efforts to improve teacher education and preparation for K–12 STEM education and improve undergraduate education, including persistence and completion in STEM.
• Federal government, states, local school districts, industry, philanthropy, universities: All stakeholders should take action—urgent, sustained, comprehensive, intensive, and informed—to successfully increase the participation and success of women and underrepresented minorities across all academic and professional disciplines and, especially, in science, mathematics, and engineering education and careers.
Increasing federal support for programs that enable the participation and success of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines has already been stated as a priority by both the America COMPETES Act and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The
committee supports the investments recommended for these purposes by these efforts.
Our people are our greatest asset. Improving the educational success of our citizens at all levels improves our democracy, culture and society, social mobility, and both individual and national economic success. As career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math continue to expand at a rapid pace, recruiting more underrepresented minorities and women into STEM careers and ensuring that they remain in the pipeline is essential and strategic not only for meeting the workforce needs of an increasingly technological nation but also for obtaining the intellectual vitality and innovation necessary for economic prosperity, national security, and social well-being that such diversity brings.
Ensure that the United States will continue to benefit strongly from the participation of international students and scholars in our research enterprise.
Actors and Actions—Implementing Recommendation 10:
• Federal government: Federal agencies should ensure that visa processing for international students and scholars who wish to study or conduct research in the United States is as efficient and effective as possible, consistent also with homeland security considerations.
• Federal government: As we benefit from the contributions of highly skilled, foreign-born researchers, the federal government should also streamline the processes for non-U.S. doctoral researchers to obtain permanent residency or U.S. citizenship in order to ensure that a high proportion remain in the United States. The United States should consider taking the strong step of granting residency (a Green Card) to each non-U.S. citizen who earns a doctorate in an area of national need from an accredited research university. The Department of Homeland Security should set the criteria for and make selections of areas of national need and of the set of accredited institutions in cooperation with the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
• Federal government: Engage in the proactive recruitment of international students and scholars.
There is no additional cost.
The United States has benefited significantly over the last half-century and more from highly talented individuals who have come to the United States from abroad to study or conduct research. Today, there is increasing competition for these individuals as students or researchers both in general and from their home countries. It is in the interest of the United States to attract and keep individuals who will create new knowledge and/or convert it to new products, industries, and jobs in the United States.
During past eras of challenge and change, our national leaders have acted decisively to create innovative partnerships to enable our universities to enhance American security and prosperity.
While engaged in the Civil War, Congress passed the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862 to forge a partnership between the federal government, the states, higher education, and industry aimed at creating universities capable of extending educational opportunities to the working class while conducting the applied research to enable American agriculture and industry to become world leaders. Among the results were the green revolution in agriculture that fed the world, an American manufacturing industry that became the economic engine of the 20th century and the arsenal of democracy in two world wars, and an educated middle class that would transform the United States into the strongest nation on Earth.
In the 20th century, emerging from the Great Depression and World War II, Congress acted once again to strengthen this partnership by investing heavily in basic research and graduate education to build the world’s finest research universities, capable of providing the steady stream of well-educated graduates and scientific and technological innovations central to our robust economy, vibrant culture, vital health enterprise, and national security. This expanded research partnership enabled America to win the Cold War and put a man on the Moon. It also developed new technologies such as computers, the Internet, global positioning systems, and new medical procedures and pharmaceuticals that contribute immensely to national prosperity, security, and public health.
Today, our nation faces new challenges, a time of rapid and profound economic, social, and political transformation driven by an exponential growth in knowledge and innovation. A decade into the 21st century, a
resurgent America must stimulate its economy, address new threats, and position itself in a competitive world transformed by technology, global competitiveness, and geopolitical change. In this milieu, educated people, the knowledge they produce, and the innovation and entrepreneurial skills they possess, particularly in the fields of science and engineering, are keys to America’s future.
It is essential as a nation to reaffirm and revitalize the unique partnership that has long existed among the nation’s research universities, federal government, states, and business and industry. The actions recommended will require significant policy changes, productivity enhancement, and investments on the part of each member of the research partnership. Yet they also comprise a fair and balanced program that will generate significant returns to a stronger America.
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