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The Gathering Storm, Context

By | Education and Training, Innovation, Technology | No Comments

From the Sept. 23 news release from the National Academies of Sciences announcing the new “Gathering Storm, Revisited” report, “U.S. Competitive Position Has Futher Declined in Past Five Yeras, Report Says; Nation Needs Sustained Commitment to Investment in Innovation.”

The report notes many indications that the United States’ competitive capacity is slipping, including the following: 

  • In 2009, 51 percent of U.S. patents were awarded to non-U.S. companies. 
  • China has replaced the U.S. as the world’s number one high-technology exporter and is now second in the world in publication of biomedical research articles.
  • Between 1996 and 1999, 157 new drugs were approved in the United States.  In a corresponding period 10 years later, the number dropped to 74.
  • Almost one-third of U.S. manufacturing companies responding to a recent survey say they are suffering from some level of skills shortage.

In addition, in spite of occasional bright spots, the nation’s education system has shown little sign of improvement, particularly in math and science, the report says.  According to the ACT College Readiness Report, 78 percent of U.S. high school graduates in 2008 did not meet readiness benchmark levels for one or more entry-level college courses in mathematics, science, reading, and English, the report notes.  And the World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 48th in the quality of its math and science education. 

The Gathering Storm, Reaching Category 5

By | Education and Training, General, Human Resources, Innovation, Technology | No Comments

Kudos to Nature.com for covering the U.S. National Academies’ report on innovation, investment and education, “Rising about the Gathering Storm, Revisited.” With so much going on in Congress and the political world, it would have been easy to overlook this report, which has important insights about U.S. competitiveness to share.

It’s more than insights, really — They’re warnings. After all, the subtitle for the report is, “Rapidly Approaching Category 5”

Nature reports, “‘Gathering Storm’ back on the radar“:

Efforts to increase US competitiveness by funding basic scientific research and education have failed to improve the country’s global outlook, says a report released today by the US National Academy of Sciences, the US National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. It comes at a time when two key bills for science funding are set to expire and several science programs have had their budgets frozen in the current versions of the appropriations bills in Congress. “There is support for research but it is unstable, and these investments only make sense if they are sustained for the long haul,” says report coauthor Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering in Washington DC.

The new report is an update of the National Academy of Sciences’ 2005 report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm”, which called for a ten per cent annual increase in government funding of basic scientific research for seven years. That report elicited rare bipartisan support in Congress for a bill called America COMPETES, which put several key science agencies on a path toward doubling their funding over ten years. Vest says the National Academies chose to update the 2005 report now because COMPETES is set to expire at the end of this fiscal year, as is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which financed the implementation of several of the report’s recommendations. “It was on the political table,” Vest says.

The updated report was written by a 17-member committee chaired by Norman Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, that wrote the original 2005 report for the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine.

Augustine will testify Wednesday at a hearing before the House Science Committee, “Averting the Storm: How Investments in Science Will Secure the Competitiveness and Economic Future of the U.S.

Also testifying at the hearing are Craig Barrett, the retired chairman and CEO of Intel, Charles Holliday Jr., chairman of the Bank of America and retired chairman and CEO of DuPont, and Dan Mote Jr., President Emeritus of the University of Maryland and Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering.

For more on the report, see the National Academies Press materials.