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FYI Number 155: November 3, 2005

New Academies Report on Ensuring America's Economic Future

"It is easy to be complacent about U.S. competitiveness and pre-eminence in science and technology," states a new report from the National Academies. However, the report warns that "the world is changing rapidly, and our advantages are no longer unique. Without a renewed effort to bolster the foundations of our competitiveness, we can expect to lose our privileged position." The report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future," proposes a number of specific actions the federal government can take to prepare the country for global leadership through the 21st century.

Twenty leaders in academia, industry, education and government, including three Nobel Prize winners, agreed on short notice to serve on the Academy's Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century. In the course of only 10 weeks, the committee heard from experts in relevant fields, reviewed hundreds of suggestions, prior studies and indicators, and prepared a lengthy report. The committee drew from a number of policy recommendations already issued in different forms by other organizations, and has succeeded in generating significant interest in the topic of America's competitiveness. The report's October 12 release drew a standing-room-only crowd and prompt media coverage, while hearings in both the Senate and the House followed closely upon its release.

The report was requested in late May by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy, and Ranking Minority Member of the full Energy and Natural Resources Committee, respectively. Alexander and Bingaman asked for the top actions that "federal policy-makers could take to enhance the science and technology enterprise so that the United States can successfully compete, prosper, and be secure in the global community of the 21st Century." This request was endorsed by the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House Science Committee, Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Bart Gordon (D-TN).

In the course of its work, the committee identified and compiled a list of "Worrisome Indicators" that the U.S.'s global preeminence is diminishing. It then developed recommendations for federal action in four major areas: improving K-12 science and math education, investing adequately in basic research, attracting the brightest minds to science and engineering, and ensuring a tax and regulatory environment that encourages investment and innovation. A series of "implementation actions" accompanies each recommendation. The committee estimates that the costs of implementing the entire package of suggestions could range anywhere from about $9 billion to over $20 billion annually. FYI #156 will present the committee's list of "Worrisome Indicators," and FYI #157 will highlight its recommendations to restore and maintain U.S. competitiveness and leadership.

The report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future," runs approximately 150 pages plus a lengthy series of appendices. It can be ordered, or read online, at the following web site: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11463.html .

Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3094

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