What do you think should be the top priority in the area of science and technology for the incoming Obama Administration?
I think his top priority should be in alternative energy sources so that we are energy independent (like Brazil), with emphasis on technologies that will be sustainable and environmentally friendly (such as wind/solar/hydrothermal power and using natural vegetation indigenous to parts of our country to produce ethanol or other fuels--like prairie switchgrass in the Midwest, pine trees in the South, etc.). In the meantime, while these technologies are being developed and being made more economically feasible, we should shift to more use of American vs. foreign oil (e,g, drill for oil in Alaska), but do this in a well-planned way so that it has a minimal impact on the environment.
Research and development of economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable energy technologies.
I think there are different responses needed in basic science, science education and applied science. All need more funding. However, in each area government has, in its intent to do good, impeded the progress intended. We need the equivalent of killer T cells moving through our science and technology apparatus, identifying what is defective or corrupted and ending it, as our immune cells do with defective cells of our body. This process must be strictly guided by peer review, with those most technically competent making the evaluations and recommendations. The National Academies of Science were established to advise the Federal Government on science and technology. That role was diminished in the last several years and should be strongly re-established. Vannevar Bush, the spiritual father of the NSF, suggested what he called his "five fundamentals" in establishing science support. We should maintain this fundamental vision. (Read Vannevar Bush's "five fundamentals" in establishing science support and return to this vision.) To make this easy I quote from Bush's famous 1945 report: Science The Endless Frontier. I am afraid the NSF does not do well by these measures.
Increase the science budgets for NSF, DOE, DoD and NASA by a factor of 2. Provide major tax incentives for US Industry to re-establish viable R&D comparable to what we had in the 1960's! Industrial R& D doesn't exist anymore in the United States. We will pay dearly for that!
Double the budget of the national science foundation and increase budgets of DOE basic energy research and NIH. Develop a serious energy policy which addresses the entire spectrum of energy sources and environmental impact.
As an academic scientist, I believe that the most valuable product of our work is well-trained people. I hope a high priority for the Obama administration will be to support students and postdocs who are doing fundamental research in the physical sciences.
I agree about having well trained student but I hope these students will be of diverse backgrounds. We have lost a lot of potential scientists because of our failure to educate minority children K-12 to their full potential. We think of these students as throw aways and iimport our scientists. There are no throw away students. Minority kids given the encouragement and a good education system have the potential to become good scientist. The National Science Foundation had some programs to improve science education nationwide. It was called State wide systemic Initiative and loca systemic initiative, later it was the Partnership Program between colleges and universities to improve education. Industry should also get involved in local education. Instead of sprending money to give visas to foreign nationals to come and work in the US some of that money should be spent to improve the local school system or the nearest rural or urban school district.
Some of us suceed in spite of the system. I am currently writing a book about some women who suceeded in spite of the odds against them but this should be the norm not the exception.
2004? ACS award for mentoring minority students receipient.
The top priority should be basic research in universities, as it should always be. This is by far the cheapest way to promote scientific research, and basic research in universities provides well-trained graduates for the technology industry. The U.S. system for graduate education in science and technology is one of very few areas in which we have got education right, giving us a level of leadership that in the long run is critical for the economic success of the country.
Increase funding for basic research in chemistry. I am concerned about the record low paylines for NIH grants and the small NSF budget. Without funding for basic science, the US will not be able to maintain its international dominance in science and technology.
1) Energy independence and reducing CO2 emissions will require increased reliance for the next 25-30 yrs on NUCLEAR ENERGY (fission). As a country we should move forward on this aggressively, including the topic of waste remediation. This will require construction/deployment NOW together with R and D for better ways to deal with the products of fission. This does not mean that we should not aggressively pursue other forms of energy such as solar, wind, tide, etc. However, nuclear fission (and in particular coupling fast breeders to PWR reactors at a single site) can be a useful technology which addresses the climate change problem and buys the time for newer technologies to mature into ones that can be deployed in a manner to provide a significant fraction of the nation's energy needs.
2) Most of the breakthroughs in biological and biomedical science are built upon achievements in the physical sciences 20-30 years ago. Yet for the past two decades we have underinvested in the physical and mathematical sciences, a trend we seriously need to reverse. A clear example of such short-sighted under-investment is the field of NUCLEAR CHEMISTRY.
I would place priority on the recommendations found in "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future," (1) Increase America's talent pool by vastly improving K-12 mathematics and science education; (2) Sustain and strengthen the nation's commitment to long-term basic research; (3) Develop, recruit, and retain top students, scientists, and engineers from both the U.S. and abroad; and (4) Ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world for innovation.
The call to address the "crisis" in STEM education in the USA continues with this piece as did Mr. Augustine (who led the gathering storm commission) in his piece in Science, 19 Sep 2008, p1605.
Science (16 May 2008, p 857) published data questioning the crisis:
A MATTER OF DEGREES. One of the most telling statistics cited in an influential 2005 National Academies report to argue for an increased federal investment in U.S. science is that "there were almost twice as many U.S. physics bachelor's degrees awarded in 1956 [pre-Sputnik] than in 2004." The decline is evidence that U.S. students are abandoning science, say policymakers including Tom Luce, head of the National Math and Science Initiative. NMSI sponsored a meeting last month in Washington, D.C., to take stock of how well the country has done since the 2005 report. But those data, it turns out, are dead wrong. In reality, U.S. colleges and universities awarded 72% more undergraduate physics degrees in 2004 than in 1956--4965 versus 2883. Sliced another way, degree production has risen by 40% since hitting a post-Sputnik low in 1998 and is approaching levels not seen since the late 1960s, when a series of large graduating classes triggered a serious job crunch.
Academy officials say they don't know how the error occurred, but it's not the first time that Rising Above the Gathering Storm has sounded a false note in its scientific call to arms: Its first edition, since corrected, greatly inflated how many engineers graduate each year from Chinese and Indian schools.
Recently, www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/09/17/pcast, has provided further data:
Challenging Conventional Wisdom on STEM Supply … Michael S. Teitelbaum, a demographer at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, looked at what he called five “mysteries” of the STEM work force issue. For example, why do employers claim a shortage of qualified STEM graduates while prospects for Ph.D.s remain “poor"? … Teitelbaum argued that such claims reappear roughly every 10 years. In the late 1980s, he said, speculations of looming shortfalls were “wildly wrong,” while successful lobbying in the late 1990s to triple the number of H-1B visas to fulfill a supposed shortage coincided with the IT bust — and a resulting collapse in demand for workers — in 2001.
I have a few suggestions to esteemed science and especially business leaders:
Those 3 steps would eliminate the "crisis" and bring droves of new students into science and engineering.
Thanks for your comments. Do you think the U.S. is producing too many Ph.D. for industries demands or not enough?
The number of people with BS, MS and PhD produced each year for industry is not a good measure at present because of the extremely specialized requirements of most industrial jobs as per my third point for business leaders: "hire those who might not perfectly match every job requirement and invest in training and educating new hires."
When industry stops outsourcing chemistry, biology and engineering jobs overseas, starts paying better wages for scientists and engineers, and invests in training its employees, then we can judge whether there are too many or too few produced.
BTW, I speak from some, small scale, experience in this matter. In the late 1990's, I was a VP of Bioinformatics at a biotech. The number of people with experience in bioinformatics was much less than the need. We increased the entry level salaries by approximately 10% and instituted significant retention bonuses (at the end of 2 years) for both software engineers and BS/MS biologists who would make a committment to learning biology/biochemistry (for SWE) and SW development (for biologists), respectively. The SWE were required to take 4 terms of biology and chemistry, for example. In the end, we were able to meet the needs for experienced bioinformaticians.
This is not rocket science but did require a real investment in employees. And this investment hurt the corporate bottom line because it costs more money for salaries and educational reimbursements. But, if one really has a shortage and thus a need, it does work.
Thanks--What are some incentives that the government can put in place to stop the outsourcing of scientific jobs?
I have no government solution to suggest and do not want any further government involvement. My point was to tell people to stop believing the self-serving statements by industry, which has a goal of obtaining maximal staffing at minimal cost. Let industry pay more and institute job training for at least 8 years, and then evaluate the supply.
BTW, people have to stop saying that there is a crisis in STEM education. For at least a hundred years, every generation has bemoaned how poorly the next generation is being educated. In all fairness, each generation learns different things that are relevant to meeting its own educational challenges. That is why science and engineering keep making great strides and continue to improve the quality of life of everyone, even for the naysayers.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Historically the unique strength of our national research enterprise has been the large component of investigator-initiated research supported by federal funding. This has produced the great advantages we have enjoyed in both innovation and training, compared to other countries. In recent years our government has systematically de-emphasized investigator-initiated research in favor of larger programs defined top-down by federal officials. (See for example, “Declines in NIH RO1 Research Grant Funding,” Science, October 10, 2008, p. 189.) I urge the Obama Administration to reinvigorate investigator-initiated research and restart the flow of American discovery and invention
The USA is still the number one economy in the world, thanks in large measure to its pre-eminent position in science and technology. Other nations are however making massive investments in these areas, and the USA is in danger of losing its pre-eminent position over the next few decades. Significant investment in science and technology research and education is needed to ensure that the best and the brightest students will be attracted to careers in science and technology and that young researchers will continue to be able to do bold and creative work.
Recapture our global leadership in science and technology by significant investment into research and education
These are all great ideas. What do you think?
I did a google search on Obama and Science, take a look at these articles.
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