Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"The Gathering Storm"

Here's an excerpt from Norman Augustine's recent editorial in Science, titled "Scilence" (you can register for free). He is responding to the efforts since the U.S. National Academies committee that he headed issued the 2005 report "Rising Above The Gathering Storm" on our need to invest in basic science research and education.

Much has been accomplished since The Gathering Storm was published. A new research university was established, with an opening endowment equal to what the Massachusetts Institute of Technology amassed after 142 years. Next year, over 200,000 students will study abroad, mostly pursing science or engineering degrees, often under government scholarships. Government investment in R&D is set to increase by 25%. An initiative is under way to create a global nanotechnology hub. An additional $10 billion dollars is being devoted to K-12 education, with emphasis on math and science. And a $3 billion dollar add-on to the nation's research budget is in process. Of course, these actions are taking place in Saudi Arabia, China, the United Kingdom, India, Brazil, and Russia, respectively.

... Of the 535 members of the U.S. Congress, only 8 list themselves as engineers or scientists. Of the 9 senior leaders in China, 8 hold such degrees. How can America's political leaders be expected to make sound policy decisions in a world of increasingly complex science and technology if the most qualified individuals in those fields remain absent from the field of play? If current trends persist, the United States may well be on its way to becoming "America, the land of the free and the home of the unemployed.
Full text here.

Copyright 2008 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Science 19 September 2008
321. no. 5896, p. 1605