Friday, December 09, 2005

Urgent message: U.S. squandering economic leadership

The Statement of the National Summit on Competitiveness packs a strong message, starting with
The National Summit on Competitiveness has one fundamental and urgent message: if trends in U.S. research and education continue, our nation will squander its economic leadership, and the result will be a lower standard of living for the American people.
Other excerpts:
Investment in fundamental research has long been the bedrock of American innovation. Publicly funded research launched the semiconductor and Internet revolutions, global positioning technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology, to name just a few. But the nation’s investment in knowledge creation as a percentage of national wealth has declined significantly since the post-Sputnik surge and must be restored if the United States is to remain competitive...

Compounding funding concerns, the drift of publicly funded research away from the frontiers of knowledge is a barrier to breakthroughs. Over time, the federal investment has grown more conservative—increasingly driven by consensus, precedent, and incremental approaches. Ensuring that the government is funding high-risk, high-payoff research will be critical to enabling the United States to “leapfrog” ahead of the competition...

Everything else the United States does to stimulate innovation will be for naught if the nation does not have a student population that can compete in science and math with its counterparts from around the world. Yet the pipeline of science and engineering talent is contracting not expanding. In 2000, only 11 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in the United States were in natural science or engineering, far below the world’s average of 23 percent and about one-fifth of China’s 50 percent...

There is a striking consensus among private-sector leaders on the urgent need to remove the legal and procedural barriers that exist to hiring highly educated foreign nationals, particularly those who have been educated in the United States...

If we fail to act and our nation declines, we will not have to search for the reasons. The repeated calls for action will be there for all to see; we will only be left to wonder why none was heeded.
See also a very good post on the CRA policy blog by Peter Harsha covering this and several related developments.

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