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FYI Number 157: November 4, 2005

Recommendations from New National Academies Report

"Rising Above the Gathering Storm," the new report from the National Academies, lays out 20 specific actions the federal government should take to ensure America's economic leadership and ability to compete in the 21st century. These actions are listed below. The report includes, in an appendix, "back of the envelope" cost estimates for implementing its recommendations; costs for the entire package of proposals could range from about $9 billion to over $20 billion annually. FYIs #155 and #156 provided additional information on the report and on indicators that the U.S.'s global competitiveness may be declining; a future FYI will provide additional information on the report's release and related congressional hearings.

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 . The recommendations are summarized in the Executive Summary, which can be found at http://www.nap.edu/execsumm_pdf/11463.pdf. The report's recommendations follow:

10,000 TEACHERS, 10 MILLION MINDS IN K-12 SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS EDUCATION

"Recommendation A: Increase America's talent pool by vastly improving K-12 science and mathematics education."

"Action A-1: Annually recruit 10,000 science and mathematics teachers by awarding 4-year scholarships and thereby educating 10 million minds." The program would "award competitive 4-year scholarships for...bachelor's degrees in the physical or life sciences, engineering, or mathematics with concurrent certification as K-12 science and mathematics teachers...and require a commitment to 5 years of service in public K-12 schools."

"Action A-2: Strengthen the skills of 250,000 teachers through training and education programs at summer institutes, in master's programs, and Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate (AP and IB) training programs and thus inspire students every day." This item includes establishing a national panel to "develop rigorous K-12 materials that would be available free of charge as a voluntary national curriculum."

"Action A-3: Enlarge the pipeline by increasing the number of students who take AP and IB science and mathematics courses...from 1.2 million to 4.5 million" by 2010. "Student incentives for success would include 50% examination fee rebates and $100 mini-scholarships for each passing score on an AP or IB mathematics and science examination."

The committee also proposes "expansion of two additional approaches...that are already in use": Statewide specialty high schools, and Inquiry-based learning through summer internships and research opportunities for students.

SOWING THE SEEDS THROUGH SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH

"Recommendation B: Sustain and strengthen the nation's traditional commitment to long-term basic research that has the potential to be transformational to maintain the flow of new ideas that fuel the economy, provide security, and enhance the quality of life."

"Action B-1: Increase the federal investment in long-term basic research by 10% a year over the next 7 years, through reallocation of existing funds or if necessary through the investment of new funds. Special attention should go to the physical sciences, engineering, mathematics, and information sciences," but this "special attention does not mean...a disinvestment in such important fields as the life sciences."

"Action B-2: Provide new research grants of $500,000 each annually, payable over 5 years, to 200 of our most outstanding early-career researchers...to underwrite new research opportunities at universities and government laboratories."

"Action B-3: Institute a National Coordination Office for Research Infrastructure to manage a centralized research-infrastructure fund of $500 million per year over the next 5 years."

"Action B-4: Allocate at least 8% of the budgets of federal research agencies to discretionary funding that would be managed by technical program managers...and be focused on catalyzing high-risk, high-payoff research."

"Action B-5: Create in the Department of Energy (DOE) an organization like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) called the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)," with the director reporting to the under secretary for science, that would sponsor creative "out-of-the-box" generic energy R&D "to meet the nation's long-term energy challenges."

"Action B-6: Institute a Presidential Innovation Award to stimulate scientific and engineering advances in the national interest."

BEST AND BRIGHTEST IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING HIGHER EDUCATION

"Recommendation C: Make the United States the most attractive setting in which to study and perform research so that we can develop, recruit, and retain the best and brightest students, scientists, and engineers from within the United States and throughout the world."

"Action C-1: Increase the number and proportion of US citizens who earn physical-sciences, life-sciences, engineering, and mathematics bachelor's degrees by providing 25,000 new 4-year competitive undergraduate scholarships each year to US citizens attending US institutions." The scholarships, of up to $20,000 annually, "would be distributed to states on the basis of the size of their congressional delegations and awarded on the basis of national examinations."

"Action C-2: Increase the number of US citizens pursuing graduate study in ‘areas of national need' by funding 5,000 new graduate fellowships each year," of up to $20,000 annually, administered by NSF.

"Action C-3: Provide a federal tax credit to encourage employers to make continuing education available (either internally or through colleges and universities) to practicing scientists and engineers" to enable career-long learning and retraining for new job market demands.

"Action C-4: Continue to improve visa processing for international students and scholars," including improvements in visa categories and duration, reciprocity, travel to scientific meetings, and the technology alert list.

"Action C-5: Provide a 1-year automatic visa extension to international students who receive doctorates or the equivalent in...fields of national need at qualified US institutions to remain in the United States to seek employment." Students who are offered jobs by US-based employers and pass a security screening test "should be provided automatic work permits and expedited residence status."

"Action C-6: Institute a new skills-based, preferential immigration option" so that candidates with doctoral-level education or science and engineering skills would receive "priority in obtaining US citizenship" and, in the interim, increase the number of H-1B visas by 10,000.

"Action C-7: Reform the current system of ‘deemed exports'" so that "international students and researchers engaged in fundamental research" in US industrial, academic, and national laboratories receive access to information and research equipment "comparable with the access provided to US citizens." Additionally, items (information and equipment) that are "available for purchase on the overseas open market" or "that have manuals that are available in the public domain" should be removed from the deemed-exports technology list.

INCENTIVES FOR INNOVATION AND THE INVESTMENT ENVIRONMENT

"Recommendation D: Ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world to innovate; invest in downstream activities such as manufacturing and marketing; and create high-paying jobs that are based on innovation by modernizing the patent system, realigning tax policies to encourage innovation, and ensuring affordable broadband access."

"Action D-1: Enhance intellectual-property protection for the 21st century global economy" through reform of the patent system by: providing sufficient resources to the Patent and Trademark Office; switching to a "first-inventor-to-file" system with administrative review after a patent is granted; shielding research uses of patented inventions from infringement liability; and changing intellectual-property laws that act as barriers to innovation.

"Action D-2: Enact a stronger research and development tax credit to encourage private investment in innovation."

"Action D-3: Provide tax incentives for United States-based innovation."

"Action D-4: Ensure ubiquitous broadband Internet access."

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

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