Lack of U.S. Scientists Said to Hurt Economy

WASHINGTON—An inadequate supply of scientists and engineers is the biggest obstacle to keeping the United States competitive in the world economy, according to a survey of 500 industrial, academic and state government research administrators. They ranked educational issues above research and development issues and fiscal and monetary policies as the most important factor in maintaining U.S. competitiveness. The survey, released last month, was conducted last winter by the National Govern

Jan 25, 1988
The Scientist Staff
WASHINGTON—An inadequate supply of scientists and engineers is the biggest obstacle to keeping the United States competitive in the world economy, according to a survey of 500 industrial, academic and state government research administrators.

They ranked educational issues above research and development issues and fiscal and monetary policies as the most important factor in maintaining U.S. competitiveness. The survey, released last month, was conducted last winter by the National Governors’ Association and The Conference Board. Improving the pre-college science curriculum, increasing the number and quality of science teachers and encouraging more undergraduates to study science and engineering were seen as major elements in improving America’s scientific resources.

Despite the consensus on major themes, the groups differed on some issues (see chart on page 1). University administrators, for example, placed R&D issues first among six factors that are vital to academic competitiveness. But they listed it last in the context of U.S. competitiveness.

Only about one fourth of industrial leaders thought that cooperative research by business and universities was critically important. That contrasts with more than half of university administrators and nearly three-fourths of state officials who thought so. Similarly, only a fifth of those from industry believed their companies must increase support for university-based research, while more than half of university and government officials felt more industry support was critical to the competitiveness of their school or state.

The overall last-place ranking given to the transfer of technology was unexpected, acknowledged Catherine Morrison of The Conference Board. Participants at three meetings held last spring to discuss the survey results decided that it “pointed to a rather narrow definition of the term as the transfer of information from researcher to user rather than its broader meaning of converting an idea into a product,” she said. And fewer than one-fifth of industrial leaders felt that the issue of regulating new technologies was critical to their company’s competitiveness.

Each sponsoring organization is preparing its own version of the report, entitled “The Role of Science and Technology in Economic Competitiveness.”


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(The Scientist, Vol:2, #2, p.7, January 25, 1988)
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