Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

NSF Report Shows U.S. Slipping in STEM Dominance

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

NSF Report Shows U.S. Slipping in STEM Dominance

Article excerpt

The United States has long prided itself on its superiority in its support of science and technology research and development, but arguably less investment by America in these fields coupled with intense investment by Asian countries in STEM fields has taken away our advantage in the world. This is the conclusion reached by the National Science Board (NSB), the policymaking body for the National Science Foundation (NSF), in a report on the trends in the science, engineering and technology workforce, education efforts and economic activity in the United States and abroad.

The report, Science and Engineering Indicators 2012, is a sobering assessment of how the science and technology segment of American society is slowly losing its global dominance. NSF Director Subra Suresh says the findings in the report show that "We must take seriously new strategies for education, workforce development and innovation in order for the United States to retain its international leadership position."

The NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2012, its budget is $7.0 billion, which is awarded by Congress. Each year, NSF receives over 50,000 competitive requests for funding and makes about 11,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards nearly $420 million in professional and service contracts yearly. Suresh oversees NSF's $7 billion budget that funds basic research and education across all fields of science and engineering, including some 15 percent of federally supported basic research conducted at nearly 2,000 American colleges and universities. NSF funds reach all 50 states.

It's not just that the $7 billion is either not enough or not utilized well enough to help the United States maintain its global superiority, it is that Asian countries, most specifically what are called the Asia- 10 countries, are finding ways to integrate science and technology into their blueprints for their own economic growth. According to the Science and Engineering Indicators 2012 report, the biggest gains in global science and technology sectors occurred in China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. And it hasn't happened overnight. Over the last decade, the decline for America and the rise of the Asian10 in terms of the United share of global research and development (R&D) dropped from 38 percent to 31 percent, whereas it grew from 24 percent to 35 percent in the Asia region during the same time. These figures reflect the period from 1999 to 2009. The most dramatic example of the changing of the guard in this regard can be found in China where research and development increased 28 percent between 2008 and 2009. This pushed China into second place behind the United States and in front of Japan in this category.

"Over the last decade, the world has changed dramatically," said José-Marie Griffiths, chair of the NSB committee that oversees production of the report. "It's now a world with very different actors who have made advancement in science and technology a top priority. And many of the troubling trends we're seeing are now very well established."

Washington, D.C., has been taking note of the declining global position of the United States in science and technology and is trying to stem the tide. …

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