Future of U.S. Competitiveness Hinges on Two Important Issues
June 3, 2008 -- A new report from the Massachusetts-based American Academy of Arts and Sciences identifies investment in early-career scientists and encouragement of high-risk, high-reward research as important priorities in preserving U.S. leadership in science and engineering.
Advancing Research in Science and Engineering: Investing in Early-Career Scientists and High-Risk, High-Reward Research provides examples of obstacles facing young researchers and their potentially transformative science and technology research. One example is a decline in access to grants. The average age for first-time recipients of primary research grants from the National Institutes of Health is 42.4 and rising. The success rate for first-time grant applicants has fallen from 86 percent in 1980 to 28 percent in 2007.
The American Academy’s report offers a series of steps that government, academic research institutions, and private foundations can take to sustain a steady pipeline of science and engineering talent. It recommends policies to help overcome barriers, and it calls on federal research agencies to re-evaluate peer-review systems, invest in program officers, and more systematically track demographic data on investigators governmentwide.
Rising Above the Gathering Storm, the 2005 report on U.S. competitiveness issued by the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, urges reforms in K-12 math and science education and a greater U.S. investment in basic research. On April 29, 2008, the Academies and the National Math and Science Initiative held a convocation to assess progress made implementing the report's recommendations. A summary of the convocation proceedings will be available later this summer.