Proceedings of a Workshop
STRENGTHENING U.S. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY LEADERSHIP THROUGH GLOBAL COOPERATION AND PARTNERSHIPS
Proceedings of a Workshop Series—in Brief
International engagement and partnership are integral to the U.S. research and development (R&D) enterprise. The U.S. innovation environment relies on complex and diverse cross-sector collaborations and multi-stakeholder coalitions, and international relationships are critical to this mix of partnerships. For decades, top students, researchers, and entrepreneurs from around the world have sought to come to the United States, drawn by a system that values innovation, creativity, and an open exchange of knowledge and talent. Prioritizing these values and partnerships has fostered U.S. science and technology leadership for decades.
At the same time, the U.S. R&D enterprise may be at a tipping point, according to a 2020 report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.1 Other countries are investing heavily in their own R&D capabilities, while U.S. federal spending has remained stagnant as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Economic and national security concerns have impacted some aspects of America’s collaborative spirit and openness. In this new “gathering storm” moment, consideration of and support for the elements underpinning a vibrant U.S. innovation environment are critical.
In February and March 2021, the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened its membership to examine the opportunities and challenges of global cooperation and partnerships in the pursuit of U.S. science and technology leadership. Over the two months, GUIRR hosted six virtual workshops on elements of U.S. science and technology policy related to international engagement and competition. Topics included challenges to U.S. science and technology leadership; the intersection of science, foreign policy, and development assistance; public-private partnerships to foster innovation; the value of international research collaboration; U.S. leadership in international standards bodies; and attracting and supporting international students and researchers in the United States.2 This document summarizes the presentations and discussions at the six workshops.
“This series has demonstrated not only the importance of the triple helix of government, industry, and academia to the productivity and strength of U.S. science and innovation, but also that the research ecosystem is inextricably tied to nations across the globe. To succeed in the future, we must continue to hone our collaboration skills across all our sectors,” said GUIRR University Co-chair Laurie Leshin, President of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Reinforcing the need for linking different sectors and expertise, GUIRR Industry Co-chair Al Grasso, the immediate Past President and CEO of the MITRE Corporation, noted that U.S. leadership “is not just a matter of technology, it’s a matter of policy and economics, and all three must be considered.”
1 American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 2020. The Perils of Complacency: America at a Tipping Point in Science & Engineering. https://www.amacad.org/publication/perils-of-complacency.
2 For meeting agendas and participant lists, see: https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/strengthening-us-science-and-technology-leadership-through-global-cooperation-and-partnership-workshop-series.
TAKING STOCK OF CHALLENGES TO U.S. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY LEADERSHIP
To frame the workshop series, the presenters in the first session discussed how U.S. public and private sector organizations can strengthen a vibrant U.S. innovation environment to preserve and enhance global leadership. As Grasso stated in launching the series, the frontiers of science continue to expand, the scientific challenges at hand are becoming increasingly global in nature, and the scale of investment needed to catch up with competitors has grown over time.
Mehmood Khan, Chief Executive Officer and Board Member of Life Biosciences, Inc., focused on options to ensure investments in U.S. research continue and the United States remains competitive globally, drawing from a December 2020 U.S. Council on Competitiveness report on which he served as chair.3 The report notes federal R&D has declined as a percentage of the U.S. GDP (which peaked at about 2 percent in 1964 but was 0.62 percent by 2018) and so has the U.S. share of global R&D expenditures (from 69 percent of expenditures in 1960 to 29 percent in 2018). China has notably increased its R&D funding since 2008 (See Figure 1). The U.S. share of global venture capital has also decreased from 97 percent in 1992, to 75 percent in 2010, to 45 percent in 2017. Additional funding to support research is needed, but, he emphasized, “not just to do more of the same.” Khan noted that investments in applied research and pre-competitive technologies should involve the private sector and support new models of innovation. He also urged the United States to assert leadership in international organizations and other global efforts.
“A new innovation age calls for a new innovation game,” Khan stated, calling for a ten-fold increase in innovative capacity to improve speed and leadership. The United States must “out-imagine, out-innovate, and out-compete” in an open, transparent, and equitable way, which he argued will require a “whole-of-nation response” built on actions and commitments from the country’s already diverse innovation ecosystem, Such a response includes enhanced leadership, partnerships, training, supply chain security, and other support. “It is not a scorecard, it is a mindset,” he stressed. “Do we have the courage to have that mindset?” He proposed a number of actions: White House and state-level innovation councils to create a national vision; competitive regulations and taxation policies; federal R&D investments at two percent of GDP; extension of the mission of the national labs to permit co-funding with private sector partners; development of new partnerships; invention and entrepreneurship curricula in K-12 and higher education; and increased Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding. The U.S. patent system, public-private partnerships, and incentives perhaps modeled after the Orphan Drug Act could all spur innovations for more sustainable production and consumption, he added, and it is also important to “expand the map of U.S. innovators” to communities across the country.
Peter Cowhey, Dean of the School for Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego, highlighted the findings of a multidisciplinary group that he chaired, which looked at improving the long-term competitiveness of the United States in science and technology while managing security risks. The group concluded that “on
the fundamental scientific and technological drivers we looked at, the United States remains broadly ahead of China and in the leadership position in the world,” Cowhey said, although he clarified it is not true of every sub-field and does not guarantee the future. Cowhey’s working group looked more closely at basic research, 5G technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and biotechnology to test their proposition. He said this effort resulted in the emergence of three interdependent policy principles: (1) “heal thyself,” (2) strengthen risk management, and (3) maintain the interdependent and international S&T innovation system.
He elaborated that “heal thyself” means the direction of the United States “does not rest on what the Chinese do, it depends on what we do…. Unless we ask and invest in what is distinctive about the U.S. approach to science and innovation, we cannot succeed in this competition.” The second principle emphasizes that risk management strategies must be built for the medium- to long-term, rather than to respond to short-term pressures in science and technology. Emerging policy strategies in the United States often confuse short-term, real problems with the long-term fundamental drivers of science and technology progression. And the third principle, related to maintaining interdependence, argues that the dynamism of the U.S. innovation environment is fueled by its openness, its relationships with allies, and its ability to attract and retain talent from around the world, including China. Cowhey noted that, “the flip side—a radical divorce in the S&T ecosystem from China—will not work and, in fact, will cripple U.S. global leadership in the long term.”
Applying those principles to the implications of 5G on competiveness and security, Cowhey first countered the beliefs that the United States is deeply behind in the drivers of 5G technology, and that Huawei is the central risk-management problem associated with 5G competitiveness. Though Huawei is the current infrastructure leader in the deployment of 5G—especially radio access network equipment—this infrastructure is essentially an upgraded version of 4G technology, expanding speed and bandwidth. The real promise for 5G and its successors, according to Cowhey, is that it will allow for the reorganization of the provision of customized, on-demand networks for speed, reliability, responsiveness, routing, and other specialized attributes, which will enable an “enormous explosion” in Internet of Things applications.
Just as the U.S. government provided critical support for Internet architecture that led to new products and services, “5G can have a similar ‘Internet moment,’” he stated. “The United States has to get ahead and forge a broader view for network security in the 21st century.” Technological architectures called open radio access networks (O-RAN) and virtual radio access networks (vRAN) can reduce the power and control of traditional network providers like Huawei, Nokia, and Ericsson, to open the way to specialized new entry. The key drivers of success for such a distributed control architecture would be strength in software, cloud computing, AI, and other related areas, where the U.S. is already strong.
Overall, Cowhey said, the spread of S&T expertise around the world is a good thing. The United States cannot be all-powerful (and never was, except perhaps right after World War II), but it can sustain a predominant position if innovation investments and policies prioritize the three principles outlined above.
Innovation, competitiveness, and national security concerns are often addressed in a scattershot manner, noted Bindu Nair, the Director for Basic Research in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the U.S. Department of Defense [DoD]), and she welcomed GUIRR’s consideration of the three themes together. She briefly highlighted DoD’s support for research—from open, basic research to very highly classified research conducted at classified facilities. DoD basic research, which she oversees, follows the open collaborative model of other federal agencies to remain as free of restrictions as possible.
“It is important not to step away from international interaction, even when some countries have learned how to exploit and gain value from U.S. advances,” Nair said. The United States has benefited from open collaboration and has also been able to communicate principles about what ethical science ought to look like. Universities, national labs, and other spaces have brought forward brilliant, creative ideas, although the U.S. enterprise often does not sufficiently support pre-competitive technologies to move ideas with a longer time horizon forward. Other countries, both allies and competitors, are trying different models, and the United States must try new models, too. “If the United States stops collaborating, others will not, and we will not have access to global science. I don’t think that is anything anybody wants,” she argued.
Nair described the effort of the Trump Administration White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to produce National Security Presidential Memorandum 33 on research security, which reinforces support for the open research enterprise and recognizes the United States cannot close itself off from the world. It calls for a common appreciation of ethical considerations in the research enterprise that are clearly laid out and enforced. In the case of DoD, tools to protect research when needed include classifying the research and using its network of Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) and University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs), which are designed to meet special research needs that could not be pursued as effectively by government or private sector resources.
Long-term, Nair said the risks to closing off from the world include the loss of foreign students to the U.S. talent stream. Noting that the United States has less than five percent of the global population, she commented, “We have to remain the destination of choice for the most brilliant students in the world to capture the genius in the other 95 percent of the world’s population,” she said. In closing, she noted the United States must safeguard its research ecosystem but prevent stagnation by strengthening international collaborations to prevent technological surprises from other competitors, create its own technological surprises, strengthen infrastructure to get discoveries to market faster, and nurture the workforce.
STRENGTHENING THE INTERSECTION OF SCIENCE, FOREIGN POLICY, AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE POLICY
The second session focused on the intersection of science, foreign policy, and international development to balance the pursuit of U.S. research values and ideals while protecting against economic and national security risks. In introducing the session, Grasso referred to comments made by National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan to the GUIRR Council, in which he noted the problems of today are largely global, and that amidst global competition, the United States must assert global leadership.
Cathy Novelli, Senior Advisor to Shearwater Global and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University, drew on her prior experience at the U.S. Department of State (State) and other foreign policy settings to note that the potential of science solutions in diplomacy has not been tapped to its fullest. “Foreign policy needs to be based on facts, not just assertions. Science can help provide a solid basis of fact and can be a neutral starting point for diplomacy,” she said, although she warned against politicizing science. The expertise of science and technology officers could be better integrated across State, she said. She also suggested enhancing the U.S. Science Envoys and Embassy Science Fellows programs; better integrating the scientific expertise within the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs across State; and reviving the position of Science Advisor to the Secretary. In addition to assisting within State, that office can build a web of science advisors in other countries and with counterparts in other U.S. agencies.
Science plays a role not just in today’s crises but in looking ahead, Novelli commented. She urged GUIRR, the National Academies, and universities to look for opportunities to conduct science diplomacy, for example by educating diplomats who are not scientists and carrying out “quiet diplomacy” with colleagues in other countries. “While they [non-government scientists] are not official U.S. government representatives, a lot can be done in the backchannel, especially with countries that have fraught relations with the United States,” she said. In considering strategies for cooperating with China, Novelli noted that despite the competitive relationship, continuing dialogue between U.S. and Chinese scientists is necessary, she said, especially in areas of mutual concern such as climate change.
Development efforts that affect people’s lives—such as public health and energy—have their base in science, as recognized in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and initiatives funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Development banks and nongovernmental organizations can also play key roles in driving innovation in sustainable development. “COVID-19 has shown the importance of letting science lead,” she concluded. “We won’t solve big problems by rhetoric alone. It’s important to take these lessons to move forward in an integrated manner.”
The second presentation of the meeting by James Schoff, a senior fellow in the Carnegie Asia Program, focused on the U.S.-Japanese S&T relationship. The United States and Japan have cooperated for decades, but he noted recent unprecedented bilateral alignment related to climate change, pandemic control, and concern about China. Schoff first described the government-funded research landscape in Japan. Funding of research by the Government of Japan (GOJ) plays a relatively smaller role in overall R&D funding compared to the United States, and small amounts of funding also go directly to the business sector and globally, although there is a larger effort to engage internationally. Total R&D funding across ministries is about $40 billion annually. A cabinet-level office oversees development of five-year plans to guide S&T policy-making and funding.
Japan is looking to boost international cooperation, Schoff said. Japan’s Moonshot Research and Development Program is a good example of an effort to expand the international component of its scientific endeavors; Schoff noted this multi-goal initiative is actively recruiting international collaborators. The GOJ’s goals to be carbon neutral by 2050 and to undertake a digital transformation provide opportunities for greater U.S.−Japanese cooperation. He said GOJ’s next five-year plan will embody these themes under a vision of “Society 5.0.,” a vision of human-centered society with high integration of cyber and physical space to promote economic growth and solve social problems. Schoff noted growing concerns around the exploitation of Society 5.0 technologies by China to Japan’s disadvantage, unless it takes steps to protect certain advances.
To enhance the relationship between the United States and Japan, Schoff suggested updating the U.S.−Japanese bilateral agreement from 1988, to address areas of imbalance including insufficient coordination of R&D invest-
ments between the public and private sectors, and inadequate flexibility on dual-use technologies. He also suggested the creation of a U.S.−Japan Strategic Science, Technology, and Innovation Council to identify overlapping priorities and direct new investments for those priorities, such as related to quantum computing. Some resources, such as test beds or other expensive facilities, could be shared, he suggested. Traditional barriers will persist, especially related to culture and language, but he said they could be overcome with private sector involvement and targeted expectations.
Melissa Flagg, Senior Fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University, said she wanted to reframe the vision of Vannevar Bush in Science: The Endless Frontier. She pointed out the context of this influential document in which Bush saw the opportunity for the U.S. government to step up to support science after World War II. The landscape is very different today, she noted, with changes in domestic and international frameworks.
“The relationship between federal funding and other parts of the R&D system has fundamentally shifted,” Flagg said. Although the federal share of R&D funding has declined because of lower investments as a percent of GDP, the relative decline is also because other entities are more involved than they were 70 years ago, with their own characteristics related to risk, scale, decision-making, and oversight. “We have one of the richest mixtures of sources of funding and production of research of any country on Earth,” she said; federal research funding is complemented by nonprofit organizations, philanthropic and academic endowments, and corporate funding. Beyond behaving solely as a funder of research, Flagg said, the federal government can play a valuable role in leveraging other competencies across other entities through the research enterprise to wield more effective R&D capability.
Globally, R&D investments have tripled since 2000, to around $2.2 trillion in 2018. Although consideration of funding often centers on competition with China, Flagg noted that research funding from these two countries combined only constitutes half of all global R&D spending. Much of the other $1 trillion is investment by traditional U.S. partners, and this, Flagg noted, should lead to “a fundamentally new way to think about leadership.” Rather than focusing on the state of bipolar competition between the United States and China, she suggested emphasizing that the United States and its traditional partners and allies comprise a majority of global R&D. This framing suggests that instead of focusing on controlling the research enterprise through funding and prioritization, the U.S. federal government might think of itself as a “member of the board” within alliances and partnerships that incorporate more of the capabilities of institutions across the U.S. research ecosystem.
“Science often tells us what we don’t know. It cannot bring a tidy answer to the table, but it can bring a way of thinking,” she observed. “We need to begin embracing the chaotic bottom-up system that America has.” She urged thinking about alliances that get scientists more involved in local communities, with the U.S. government as a convener and an “intentional funder” in a domestic and international context, alongside other funders and partners. Flagg argued that increasing the number of seats at the table will bring recognition to the unique diversity of the U.S. innovation system and lead to more mutually fruitful alliances.
IMPROVING THE U.S. INNOVATION ENVIRONMENT WITH PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARNERSHIPS
Public-private partnerships (PPPs) were recognized throughout the workshop as critical to, and evidence of, a vibrant U.S. innovation environment. Leshin moderated a session that focused on how such partnerships enhance U.S. competitiveness. “As we consider the translation of research to action and impact, these public-private partnerships are often the vehicle,” she said. “Our ability to do this well has distinguished the United States as a global competitor, but it’s also important to consider what makes a partnership a good one. What are the exemplars? How we do scale them? How do we involve non-traditional partners?”
To Dario Gil, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research, partnering in the era of accelerated discovery could not be more important. IBM Research’s 3,000 scientists around the world view themselves as part of a global community of discovery, encompassing many disciplines, and cannot succeed without partnering with universities, the public sector, and others, he said. “The public is experiencing the power of science as never before, with the scientific method at the center,” Gil said. He urged applying the scientific method across society, as well as to leverage the revolution in computing (see Figure 2). For example, science should be brought to bear not only in the COVID-19 pandemic response, but also in the pursuit of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and postCOVID-19 imperatives related to health, work, energy and climate, which will require the development of new, emerging institutions.
Gil is part of the nonpartisan Science and Technology Action Committee, which recently issued a national call to action—doubling current levels of investment, elevating scientific leadership (Cabinet level for the Office of Science and Technology), and coordinating big challenges across agencies and through OSTP.
As shown with COVID-19 and accelerated vaccine production, crises often accelerate large-scale technological adoption and transform institutions. He offered the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium as a case study of institutional innovation. It aggregated and coordinated high-performance computing capacity to make capabilities available to researchers around the world committed to dealing with the pandemic. Within a few weeks and without contractual arrangements, 40 institutions and $2 billion worth of computing power were on board to support more than 100 projects. Recognizing that the crisis created the sense of urgency, he posed the question of how to sustain momentum. He suggested carrying it forward through creation of a “Science Readiness Reserve,” rather than ad hoc responses. Reserves could be mobilized in national strategic computing, genomics, AI, and other identified priorities. A survey conducted through Research!America showed strong public support for this concept. Gil has written about it extensively in the scientific and popular media, and he urged a dialogue that recognizes the urgency of science.
In discussion, Gil clarified that the Science and Technology Plan urges the support of basic and applied research. However, he added, “When Congress speaks about investing $300 billion in R&D, they expect results. Results means jobs and competitiveness for the country.” Balancing openness with national security is critical, Gil added. “I view a continuum,” he said, using quantum as an example. “Part of what we do is open, but we know where to draw the boundary … Every technology area will have this continuum. A good strategy defines the open component. The benefits of openness outweigh the downsides.”
Grace Wang, Executive Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Knowledge Enterprise at The Ohio State University, discussed evolving trends in academic-industry partnerships. The impacts of the ever-faster pace of technology adoption include increased competition, new skills needed in the existing and future workforce, policy implications, and increased inequality. Speed, talent, and scale influence how academic-industry partnerships are formed and maintained.
Looking back, industry and universities became more closely aligned in the 1970s and 1980s through joint projects and licensing. Driven by competition, companies started to leverage university capabilities on joint research projects and through startup acquisition, but these partnerships were still very technical, and based on assessments of industry needs. Strategic co-locations in the 1990s and 2000s followed. Competition for technologies and talent
continued to drive partnerships during these decades, with side-by-side work between university and industry researchers to advance strategic agendas in nanotechnology, semiconductors, AI, and microelectronics hardware research.
In recent years, she said, universities are bringing co-location to a new level through “Innovate−Live−Play” clusters to foster daily organic and strategic collaboration in a dynamic environment. Clusters of partners increase density related to place, knowledge and ideas, and talent. For example, Ohio State University’s Innovation District is being built next to the main campus. Like others around the country, it will be urban, walkable, and highly connected to encourage partnerships. Many of these districts value “place-making,” and engage anchor institutions, including universities and large tech companies, to provide stability. Looking forward, it is important to enable more inclusive growth and synergy among innovation hubs. Establishing hubs or districts in small metropolitan areas and connecting them could broaden where innovation occurs, she suggested. “Economic growth across the United States is not homogeneous. Enabling synergy among innovation hubs across the country will lead to gains in translation, productivity, and effectiveness.”
During the discussion Leshin noted the importance of bringing opportunities to where the talent lives, rather than a gravitational pull to big cities. NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) was suggested as a model for state and the federal government participation. An attendee suggested identifying opportunities to better engage scientists and engineers with governors and other state-level officials. (These and other ideas for a role for states in the research enterprise were explored in a 2017 GUIRR workshop). In discussing with the presenters how to best engage partnerships for innovation, Gil suggested stressing purpose: that is, not developing new technology for its own sake (“digital for digital”) but instead focus on “digital for physical” applications in agriculture, infrastructure, biology, and other fields. He also noted the importance of mobilizing STEM talent across all institutions. For example, rather than different companies and agencies each having their own initiatives to reach out to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority institutions, he proposed aggregating investments of federal agencies and the private sector to provide more flexibility to the institutions at scale.
DEMONSTRATING THE VALUE OF INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH COLLABORATION
As explored in the previous session, partnerships and collaboration are integral in translating U.S. scientific investments into global leadership and value for the economy. Presenters in this session offered ideas about how to leverage and enhance strategic international relationships and values-based partnerships with other countries, including measuring the benefits of participating in international research partnerships. In introducing the session, Leshin noted, “The pandemic has opened up new possibilities alongside constraints. COVID-19 has transformed the landscape of international research collaboration, and it’s a good time to have a conversation about what that landscape will look like in the future.” Larry Marshall, the Chief Executive of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), offered pre-recorded remarks about CSIRO’s mission-based research. CSIRO works with 378 organizations from more than 50 countries, and has 15 memoranda of understanding with institutions around the world, and nine staff members in the United States. They also help U.S. and other foreign companies set up R&D in Australia “We view our role as one of national preparedness using science as a time machine to predict what might be coming and get ahead of it,” he said. CSIRO was created a century ago to find a solution to an invasive weed species choking Australia’s agricultural production.
Five years ago, CSIRO decided to focus on “mission-based ecosystems to solve seemingly impossible problems.” He stressed the need to be entrepreneurial to solve problems that cross borders. “Missions are like start-ups: laser-like focus; obsession to solve a clear problem and deliver value; and willingness to try the impossible, fail, and try again.” Governments do not generally applaud failure, he commented, but “if we are not failing frequently, we are not ambitious enough.” A consultative process resulted in identification of six great challenges: food security and quality; health and wellbeing; resilient and valuable environments, sustainable energy and resources, future industries; and a secure Australia and region. “The crises of the last 12 months show that challenges must be approached in a coordinated and scaled way, and not as “pockets of brilliant disconnectedness,” Marshall said.
To involve a range of investors to its missions, CSIRO set up an incubator to stimulate academic R&D and a venture fund to de-risk and make the missions more attractive to private investors. CSIRO sees its role as a facilitator, connector, and agitator to link domestic and international universities with businesses, governments, NGOs, and industries to bring ideas to production. Examples relevant to the United States include research to capture high-growth global protein markets; plastic manufacture, use, and recycling/disposal; circular economy related to consumption and landfills; water quality monitoring from space; and antimicrobial resistance. He concluded by putting out a call for more partners and coalitions, based on common goals, aligned incentives, complementary values, and shared benefit.
To open the virtual workshop with a discussion about the state of international research collaboration, Hans Pohl, Program Director at the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education
(STINT), summarized two recent studies to understand the extent and impact of international research collaboration through publication data and through collaborations with “growth countries.”
His first study showed international co-publications increased from about 10 to more than 20 percent of papers published since 1996, while academic-corporate co-publications remained the same at about 2.5 percent. Looking at citation impact from 2015 to 2019, academic-corporate co-publications are cited about 70 percent more than the average of all publications. When he looked at four different categories of authorship (individual, institutional, national, and international) in 10 countries, he found international collaborations are rewarded with the highest number of citations, with academic-corporate international co-publications the most highly cited. In a small comparison study, he looked at the link between academic-corporate co-publications and innovation using the European Innovation Scoreboard. He found some proof between a country’s innovation score and the percentage share of that country’s academic-corporate co-publications, with a higher share in countries with higher innovation scores.
The second study he reported on looked at research collaboration with growth countries to see if collaborations are taking place with what he referred to as the “countries of the future.” He assigned a growth indicator for each country, based on publication volume growth and citation impact growth in two time windows (1999–2018 and 2014–2018). Looking at 48 countries, Indonesia and countries in the Mideast had the highest growth indicators. In contrast, the United States and Sweden had relatively low growth in this measure. Pohl then developed a “collaboration indicator” to determine the actual and expected co-publications taking place between countries. He showed the United States has a lot of collaborations with a few countries—e.g., China, Turkey, Canada, and Israel—but less collaboration with the high-growth countries (See Figure 3).
Pohl concluded by noting the risk that the research world is developing more rapidly than current research collaboration networks. He suggested that when U.S. researchers consider collaborations and partnerships, they look beyond the “usual” to those who are emerging in the high-growth countries.
Former director of the Galveston National Laboratory (GNL) James Le Duc brought the issue of openness and national security in focus when explaining GNL’s work as a large biocontainment facility, mostly for the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. Le Duc said that more than 50 BSL 4 biocontainment laboratories are in operation or under construction around the world, but there is concern that some countries may not have the capacity to maintain them securely. GNL has Biosecurity Level (BSL) 2, 3, and 4 laboratories, with requirements related to the physical plant, training, worker safety, and other aspects of operations. Much time is spent on training, with dedicated mock laboratory situations. A large amount of support and training is also needed to maintain air filtration and other infrastructure.
LeDuc welcomed the opportunity at GNL to host and train international researchers. Through discussions between the U.S. National Academies and the Chinese National Academy of Sciences, GNL and the Wuhan Institute of Virology have collaborated since 2015. GNL hosted a Chinese post-doctoral student for several years who then helped establish a comprehensive BSL 4 training program in Wuhan. Another collaboration took place with a researcher from Marmara University in Turkey, who came to GNL to study Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF). When she returned, she started a master’s program in biosafety and biosecurity at her university. A further spinoff of the collaboration facilitated research on the virus by making CCHF patients’ convalescent blood specimens available to Vanderbilt University scientists.
“International technology transfer, educational exchanges, training, and collaborations have built trust, advanced science, furthered biosafety and biosecurity, and facilitated communications,” Le Duc said. As GNL director, he aggressively sought such engagements. A participant noted the work of GNL makes a great case about the importance of international collaborations and asked about impediments to such continuous work. Le Duc said essential scientific dialogue has gone forward despite the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic and other political hurdles, and noted the importance of educating Congress and the public that this kind of collaboration de-risks the environment for everyone.
Karen Seto, the Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization at the Yale School of the Environment, noted her focus on urbanization and the environment reinforces earlier points made by Pohl and Le Duc about the value of international research collaboration. Challenges such as the pandemic and environmental change are international, but she stressed other reasons to collaborate relate to research opportunities, human resources (e.g., placements for post-docs), instrumentation, resource access, and changing patterns of funding.
Given the increasing numbers of people living in cities and towns, “We are becoming an urban species, and this is transforming societies and the planet,” Seto said. Climate change also transcends national boundaries, and she welcomed new funding sources for climate change and urbanization that include the European Union’s Horizon 2020, Belmont Forum, and the governments of Qatar and China. These sources are encouraging multinational collaboration, and some are available to U.S. principal investigators, she pointed out.
International partnerships can mobilize resources, creativity, and productivity. A number of older research papers have shown links between international co-authorship and national publication productivity. Another major benefit is strategic leadership in science. Importantly, she said, leadership leads to “scientific agenda setting,” which leads to policy agenda setting. For example, researchers studied patterns of authorship of the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to map out who the authors collaborated with by country and institution. The significance of this mapping, she explained, is that collaborators can have an impact on policy. Another example is increased recognition by policy makers of the impact of cities on climate change. “I can trace this to leadership of specific researchers who have been engaged in the IPCC process,” Seto said. Similarly, researchers were instrumental in the inclusion of Sustainable Cities and Communities as a stand-alone SDG.
Seto acknowledged the diversity of institutional and national cultures related to training and collaboration. Because of this diversity, she stressed, “It is important for young scholars to be immersed early in international activities where they can be thought leaders and build their own social capital.” Leshin noted in concluding the workshop that international experience has been considered an important element of the undergraduate curriculum, but perhaps it should be a larger part of graduate STEM education as well.
MAINTAINING U.S. LEADERSHIP IN INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS BODIES
Standards support innovation, values, and technical prowess, noted Grasso in introducing the session on U.S. engagement in international standards-setting bodies and agreements. Policymakers have taken note of the role of China in the shaping of international standards, particularly on 5G standards development, he commented, but a fuller exploration of the issues is important.
Gordon Gillerman, Director of the Standards Coordination Office at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), noted that standards impact 93 percent of global trade and play an important role in innovation. Unlike other countries’ approaches, Gillerman explained, the U.S. standardization system is voluntary, decentralized, market driven, and private sector-led. It relies on cooperation, communication, and parity among diverse stakeholders, with the U.S. government as one of many stakeholders.
The standards world encompasses two areas: metrology/measurement science and documentary standards related to such areas as test methods, interoperability, and product and systems standards. Gillerman invited participants to look around them to see the number of products and services that have standards attached to them, from wireless connectivity to building materials to appliances. Entities that range from large international organizations to very specific technical bodies set documentary standards relevant to their expertise. In recent years, patented technology has become part of many standards. If the technology is essential to conformity to the standard, it receives a Standards Essential Patent in which the patent holder must license the technology at reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms to all.
Looking globally, Gillerman noted China’s increased involvement in national and international standardization is part of its 2035 plan, launched in 2018. While concern about China’s influence may affect how the United States engages in international bodies, he reminded the group, “The diversity in our system has encouraged innovation and set us apart. We need to think about ways to preserve those good aspects while still looking at the fact that other actors are starting to become more prominent.” In response to a question about how China’s strategy of standards leadership affects global economic competition, Gillerman said the most important part in the lifecycle of a standard is whether
it offers a level playing field in the marketplace when it is published. To date, he said, the international bodies have maintained a system of consensus and due process, but it will be important to watch for any changes. He also said an effort is underway in the standards community to build a more inclusive approach to expand participation and to pay attention to the language of the standards themselves.
Ajit Jillavenkatesa, Senior Standards Legal Policy Advisor at Apple, offered personal perspectives on leadership in international standards. Thirty or 40 years ago, he noted, a small group of industrialized nations drove standards development. The dynamic changed starting in the 1990s with a shift in mass manufacturing to new entrants and growth in connectivity and information and communication technologies. New players, who had previously been only consumers of standards recognized they could use standards more effectively by playing a more active role in their development.
Jillavenkatesa said U.S. policymakers often ask two questions: Is the United States losing its position as a leader and what can be done? He cautioned against thinking of leadership as a zero sum game, but rather as a rising tide that lifts all boats. Rather than focus on numbers of the contributors or participants from each country at a standards meeting, he suggested recognition that standardization is not homogenous. Different bodies develop and adopt standards in different ways that are not easily analyzed through metrics alone, which can complicate incentivizing participation. He prefers an outcome-based approach to look at the policies and procedures related to standards adoption and use. Key questions he posed within this evaluation framework would be, “Once a standard has been developed, who is actually using it? How well is it being adopted by the marketplace? Does it address a very specific question?” Jillavenkatesa highlighted Bluetooth as an example of an effective standard that everyone uses—a technical specification that was developed at the right time and place.
“A “good” technical standard without the right policies will go nowhere,” he commented. Strengthening public-private partnerships, which are critical for standardization success to offer a complementarity of expertise and sharing of information, is one example of an effective policy approach. Conversely, “bad” technical standards with policies that focus on certain favored outcomes can prop up a standard that actually suppresses innovation. Jillavenkatesa noted that policies that limit or prevent participation of key stakeholders in a standards activity—such as the listing of standards engagements in the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Entity List—create incentives for the blocked participants to move to create another body, organization, or forum where they can pursue their desired standards. This can lead to marketplace fragmentation, multiple manufacturing product lines, and other consequences.
Close collaboration between policy and technical engineers is needed. Public policy debate sets the boundaries, he said, then technical experts can come up with solutions. In standard-setting bodies, participants must be persuasive, effective, and assert leadership, which requires long-term investment in time and resources. Recognition in bodies does not come overnight. “Think about leadership in standards through a much broader lens related to adoption of standards and not solely on metrics, which are only part of story,” he suggested.
Mindel De La Torre, Chief Regulatory and International Strategy Officer at Omnispace, a global communications provider, agreed with the need for long-term U.S. commitment to participate in standards organizations and offered comments through the lens of the telecommunications sector. She expressed concern about U.S. membership in some standards bodies compared to other countries’ participation. She noted, “Over the past seven years, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Secretary General has been from China, the ITU has had more Chinese funding and participation, and some policies have not been not consistent with U.S. positions.” When she worked for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), she noted a decrease by the U.S. private sector in ITU meetings to the point that the FCC discussed whether to continue to send a delegation.
She and her colleagues concluded that if the FCC no longer chaired the delegation, it might appear that the United States was ceding decision making to others. The government provided continuity of participation, which, as Jillavenkatesa also observed, is important in these settings to gain trust. She acknowledged the difficulties for agency and company staff to make the necessary long-term commitment, which is often on top of additional duties. Also of concern, many U.S. technical experts are nearing retirement age, and there is not a well-supported pipeline of people to take their place. While FCC experts can stem the tide, she reminded participants of Gillerman’s point that one of the features of standards in the United States is that they are private sector-run. She urged GUIRR, and the National Academies more broadly, to help in the solution and offered ideas for academia, government, and industry.
Universities can teach about the standards process within engineering and other courses to build the pipeline of technical experts, she suggested, similar to how they have developed cybersecurity courses and programs over the past 10 years. Academia can partner with companies and government agencies that employ standards experts, especially those nearing retirement. Scholarships or internships can be offered to students, and professors can work with students to draft contributions to standards organizations. (Along these lines, Gillerman noted that NIST has been running a standards curriculum development program—small grants to bring into graduate and undergraduate programs).
China, she pointed out, brings younger people to standards meetings to bolster the numbers participating and so they can eventually become leaders, and Gillerman added that China has a number of education programs to support this effort.
De La Torre suggested the U.S. government can play a greater role by serving as convener and helping set priorities with stakeholders; standards identified as having the highest priority for U.S. presence can then be the focus. To increase private sector participation, she suggested offering companies tax credits to participate or R&D funding to ensure continuity. Virtual meetings are the perfect time to involve new people without the cost of travel, she noted
“It is hard for the United States to assert leadership without continuity of presence at standards meetings,” she concluded, “but academia, private sector, and the government all have opportunities to get involved.” Jillavenkatesa agreed with the importance of partnerships and convincing universities that involvement by their faculty will enhance career development and shine a positive light on the institution. Grasso noted he participated in a study that looked at government involvement in international meetings. In many cases, federal participation declined because of the high cost of travel, perception of conferences as junkets, and disincentives related to promotion. He agreed with the need to find ways to prioritize U.S. involvement in international standards as essential.
SUPPORTING INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS AND RESEARCHERS IN THE UNITED STATES
“The fuel that drives the engine is talent,” said Leshin, in introducing the last session of the workshop. To remain a “STEM talent powerhouse” requires attracting, training, and retaining the best people, including international students and researchers.
Allan Goodman, President of the Institute of International Education (IIE), commented he often is asked about the value of international students coming to the United States. He said he responds with recognition of the 107 Nobel Prize winners to date who studied in the United States through Fulbright and other scholarship programs. To learn how competitive the United States is compared to other countries for top talent, IIE recently drew on data that show student flows to and from the United States.
He said two key metrics refer to the number of international students, especially those who newly enroll each year, and whether the United States is considered a destination of choice. In the five years before the pandemic, more than one million international students came to the United States each year. About 268,000 international students were newly enrolled each year, although that number dropped to about 152,000 in 2020. It will take years to get back to the pre-pandemic number, but he expressed optimism that it will rebound. However, while the number of students who want to study internationally has grown steadily since 1998 and America remains a destination of choice, the U.S. “slice of the pie” is getting smaller. About 20 percent come to the United States, down from 50 percent in 2000. China, the United Kingdom, and Canada are aggressively courting international students and researchers, and these countries will remain competitors for talent (Figure 4). STEM students are a large and growing number of the total number of international students in the United States, surpassing business (previously the largest number), humanities, and social sciences.
He recommended three opportunities for increasing U.S. appeal. First, the rhetoric in the United States around international students must match the desire to have open academic doors to show people are welcome. Second, regulations from the past 3.5 years need to be adjusted or changed, which he noted has begun under the Biden Administration. Third, universities must be genuinely receptive to inflows of scholars. He noted, “Students and parents have more choices than ever before, including top universities in other regions. China has launched a campaign to attract Nobel laureates to attract students from around the world.”
Goodman said IIE is working on its definition of “international student” given that more international students are matriculating in U.S. institutions but attending virtually or through satellite campuses. That said, he noted IIE hears from top universities that students still want to have in-person experiences and access the resources on campuses. A participant asked about the effect of international rankings on the flows of students. Goodman said that students, parents, and government scholarship programs increasingly heed these rankings. He noted that the U.S. News and World Report rankings list 27 U.S. universities in the top 100, whereas U.S. schools constituted most of the top 100 a decade ago. The test of the power of these rankings will come if the students of tomorrow choose top universities in their own regions, he concluded.
Gaurav Khanna, Assistant Professor of Economics at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego, shared research on international student flows over the last two decades. He began by pointing out that despite media and policy attention on visas issued to low-skilled workers, most U.S. visas are issued to students and exchange students and researchers, followed by high-skilled workers. Since around 2005, most international undergraduates in the United States come from China. At the graduate level, India sent the largest share of students up until about a decade ago, when China became the top sender. Khanna credited the increase of students from China to families’ income growth and a favorable exchange rate. Although there is talk in the United States about diversifying the portfolio of where students come from, the contributing economic factors occurring in China may not be easily replicated in many other countries, he commented.
Public research universities have become the destination of many international students, Khanna has found. These institutions have been losing state funding. By accepting full fee-paying students from abroad, they can keep tuition rates low for in-state students while maintaining robust research programs. Concurring with Goodman, Khanna said foreign students are increasingly concentrated in STEM fields at the undergraduate and especially the graduate levels. Many students come to the United States as a potential pathway to the labor market.
Khanna has tracked enrollment by Indian students in U.S. universities with trends in the U.S. labor market. Boom and bust cycles in enrollment in computer science programs have reflected booms and busts in the job market; Khanna’s research also shows the rise and fall of numbers of Indian students who take the GRE—a test they would only take to study in the United States—tracks with fluctuations in the U.S. unemployment rate. Tightened immigration policies and a cap on H-1B work visas since 2016 have played out in another slump in test taking. Fewer and fewer students find they can transition from F-1 (student) to H-1B visas, and universities have responded by developing new masters’ programs, especially in STEM fields. Khanna added that other countries are also competing by investing to improve the rankings of their universities and offering students an easier transition to their labor markets.
In summary, income growth abroad, especially in China, and opportunities in the U.S. labor market, especially in India, have caused much of the student flow to the United States in the last decade. The consequences for continued international student flow include high-quality students, revenues for universities and their local communities, talent for research and instruction, and innovation in high-tech sectors.
Arthur Bienenstock, Professor Emeritus of Photon Science, Special Assistant to the President for Federal Research Policy, and Director of the Wallenberg Research Link at Stanford University, recalled that when he served in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Clinton Administration, a shortage of S&T workers was forecast. At the time, U.S. court decisions and other actions against affirmative action were taking place that could depress the numbers of underrepresented minorities and women entering the STEM workforce. The conclusion was to continue to try to increase domestic participation but to also ensure the United States remained attractive for immigration, Bienenstock recounted. Since then, demand for STEM workers has continued to grow more than supply, he noted. Between 1997 and 2017, the U.S. population grew by 23 percent, but the number of STEM domestic graduate students only grew by 16 percent. The total of foreign and domestic graduate students grew by 40 percent, which meant that foreign students made up the rest. Foreign students now make up about 35 percent of science, engineering, and health graduate students. They also represent more than half of master’s degrees in computer science, math and statistics, and engineering, as well as high numbers of students in the physical sciences. The doctoral level reflects similar percentages.
China, India, and South Korea account for 54 percent of U.S. doctorates awarded to foreign students, almost all in STEM. No European country is in the top 10, which Bienenstock said is a departure from when he began his
career. About 90 percent of Indian students say they intend to stay in the United States to work. About 79 percent of Chinese students have a similar intention, although this number has declined from 84 percent in 2017. Bienenstock called this decline worrying because immigrants play major roles in the U.S. STEM workforce in terms of talent, creativity, and innovation. While COVID-19 caused much of the drop in foreign graduate student enrollments this year, he said other challenges will remain after the pandemic. An American Academy of Arts and Sciences study interviewed graduate students who repeatedly referred to the hardship of the one-year visa. At the same time that it is becoming more difficult for international students and researchers to stay in the United States, China and India are building up their universities and graduate programs. As the population of the developed world (including China) ages, he said the young people of the future are in Africa, and he urged finding ways to increase attractiveness to African students, which, he noted, China is already doing.
To become proactive in building the STEM workforce, Bienenstock urged returning to five-year visas, reducing initiatives that discourage Chinese students, encouraging students from the Global South to come to the United States, and supporting the domestic student pipeline into STEM fields. An important part of doing so includes reducing financial barriers for U.S. students to undertake graduate STEM studies. Finally, Bienenstock acknowledged the contributions of students who go back to their home countries where they help their own societies. “We have to take pride in that. They are our colleagues as we work to address the common enemies in climate change, infectious disease, and poverty. We compete with them, but our common enemies are greater,” he said.
DISCLAIMER: This Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was prepared by Paula Whitacre as a factual summary of what occurred at the meeting. The statements made are those of the author or individual meeting participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all meeting participants; the planning committee; or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
PLANNING COMMITTEE: Patricia Falcone, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Peter Cowhey, University of California, San Diego; and Catherine Novelli, Georgetown University.
STAFF: Susan Sauer Sloan, Director, GUIRR; Megan Nicholson, Program Officer; Lillian Andrews, Senior Program Assistant; Clara Savage, Senior Finance Business Partner; Cyril Lee, Financial Assistant.
REVIEWERS: To ensure that it meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity, this Proceedings of a Workshop Series—in Brief was reviewed by Philip Bucksbaum, Stanford University; John Hildebrand, University of Arizona; Kirstin Matthews, Rice University; and Shery Welsh, United States Air Force. Marilyn Baker, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, served as the review coordinator.
SPONSORS: This workshop was supported by the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable membership, National Institutes of Health, Office of Naval Research, and the United States Department of Agriculture.
For more information, visit http://www.nas.edu/guirr.
Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Strengthening U.S. Science and Technology Leadership through Global Cooperation and Partnerships: Proceedings of a Workshop Series—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26290.
Policy and Global Affairs
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