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NRC Report Reviews S&T Strategies of Six Countries

Richard M. Jones
Number 115 - November 19, 2010  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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One of the key decisions Congress will make in coming months concerns future federal funding for science and technology.  A National Research Council report requested by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency highlights the need to make this decision in the context of actions being taken by other foreign governments in their support of S&T, and the implications these actions will have on U.S. security and competitiveness.

“S&T Strategies of Six Countries – Implications for the United States” was issued by the Committee on Global Science and Technology Strategies and Their Effect on U.S. National Security, under the NRC’s Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences.  The committee chair was C.D. (Dan) Mote, Jr. of the University of Maryland. 

The 126-page report offers important insights into the science and technology strategies of China, Singapore, India, Brazil, Japan, and Russia.  The report also discusses how a nation’s culture, or what the committee calls unique national features, determines a nation’s advances in science and technology. 

The committee concluded that a nation’s culture is of great importance, explaining “One of the better indicators of a country’s ability to achieve its S&T innovation goals is its ability to effect the requisite cultural changes.”  Russia has had the least capability to make these changes, while China and Singapore have shown the highest capability.  The committee also found that countries with both top-down (government) and bottom-up (individuals and organizations) drivers of change had the most successful S&T environment.  China and Singapore rated well in this regard.  “The likelihood of their continued, substantial progress is therefore high” the committee concluded.

Many readers will find that the report’s separate chapters on each country are of great interest.  Between six and fifteen pages long, the chapters include sections on topics such as “net assessment of S&T strategy,” “projected advances in S&T proficiency,” and “S&T investments of interest,” as well as well as S&T indicators unique to each country.  Of interest is a review of the pertinent characteristics of each nation’s culture as it affects advances in science and technology. 

The committee makes seven key recommendations, five of which focus on the monitoring of other countries’ S&T advances.   Two are more inward focused, notably the final recommendation:

“The U.S. government should assess, as a matter of urgency, the national security implications of the continuing global S&T revolution and the global dispersion of R&D. It should evaluate the impact of the decline in U.S. academic competitiveness at the primary and secondary levels, as pointed out in the 2007 report Rising Above the Gathering Storm, especially with regard to the sciences. Equally important, the assessment should seek mechanisms for sustainable U.S. government collaboration with the international community to uncover and exploit potential scientific and technological breakthroughs, wherever they occur, and to contain whatever threats they may portend.”

A recent UNESCO report analyzed the state of science and technology in many of the countries included in the NRC report.  A summary of this UNESCO report is available at physicstoday.org  

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095