USA schrikt wakker

Nieuws | de redactie
31 januari 2006 |

De leidende positie van de USA in wetenschap en technologie is niet meer zo onaangevochten vanzelfsprekend als zij voorheen was. Het jongste rapport van de National Science Board -een tweejaarlijkse ‘kennismonitor’ van Amerika- erkent dat een lange termijn wedloop in gang is gezet om de vooraanstaande positie op wereldschaal op dit terrein. “Ongoing economic and workforce changes make the outlook for the future uncertain,” blijkt uit deze analyse.

Een van de zorgpunten voor de lange termijn is het feit dat andere landen bezig zijn Amerika in te halen bij de participatie en output van het hoger onderwijs. “Even as larger proportions of U.S. citizens avail themselves of higher education, the nation has lost the advantage it held for several decades as the country offering by far the most widespread access to higher education. Starting in the late 1970s and accelerating in the 1990s, other countries built up their postsecondary education systems, and a number of them now provide a first-level college degree to at least one-third of their college-age cohort. There is evidence that many countries are trying to increase production of degrees in NS&E. They appear to be succeeding in that goal well beyond what the United States has been able to achieve over the past 25 years.”

NSB voorzitter Warren M. Washington erkent daarom in zijn reactie bij deze baanbrekende studie:. “For many years we have benefited from minimal competition in the global S&E labor market, but attractive and competitive alternatives are now expanding around the world. We must develop more fully our native talent.”

Hieronder vindt u de concluderende samenvatting van deze Amerikaanse monitoring.

Conclusion NSB monitoring

Many decades of investment in R&D have helped to lay the basis for an S&E system that generates about one-third of the world’s research articles, a multitude of technological innovations, and numerous high-technology industries that exploit innovations to their profit and to the nation’s economic benefit. The United States has maintained its scientific and technological edge in the world even as new centers of scientific and technical know-how and innovation have emerged. It attracts many of the world’s best scientists and engineers, remains the world’s leading producer of high-technology products, and benefits from the rapid growth of knowledge-intensive service industries. Its policies and practices are studied around the world as models that might be applied by other countries in their efforts to boost their competitive standing in a world that is moving toward more knowledge-intensive industries.

Although the United States remains the world’s S&T leader, a collection of trends in indicators of U.S. S&T competitiveness paints a more differentiated picture. In R&D performance, the United States is slowly widening the gap with other leading nations and regions such as the EU, non-U.S. G-7 countries, and non-U.S. OECD nations. However, some non-OECD economies, including China, the Russian Federation, and Taiwan, are slowly raising their spending relative to that of OECD members. In S&E research output, as measured by publications in the world’s key journals, the U.S. share continues to decline, indicative of the development of cutting-edge research capabilities elsewhere. The overall U.S. world market share in high-technology products is steady, but the nation’s aerospace industry is losing market share. Although the U.S. balance in intellectual products trade remains positive, it is showing signs of a gradual decline.

A range of indicators traces a trend that shows growing competitive strength in the Asian region outside of Japan, chiefly in China, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. Scientists based in those countries produce a growing share of the S&T articles appearing in the world’s leading journals, and development of regional scientific collaboration (centered on China) is apparent. These Asian economies have an expanding world market share of high-technology production. In exports of high-technology products, they are gaining market share on all major industrial nations including the United States. They are increasing their production of S&E degrees with a special focus on NS&E, thus providing a growing stream of new technical talent for their economies. They have in place, or are instituting, policies and incentives to retain their highly trained personnel, attract expatriates, or otherwise benefit from their nationals working abroad, chiefly in the United States.

As nations have turned to the task of developing a broader base of knowledge-intensive industries, they face the necessity of rethinking their workforce needs. Many are further expanding their education systems, placing emphasis on S&T training. Japan and the mature industrial nations of Europe, which have aging and declining or stagnating populations, are seeking an inflow of scientists and engineers from abroad as well as the return of their own researchers from other countries. All of these nations face declining interest in S&E among their young people, and all emphasize the importance of attracting more women to S&E careers. Increasingly, these nations seek to attract foreign students: there is growing interest in what makes the United States attractive to people from around the world as a place to study and work.

The United States faces somewhat different issues connected with the development of the S&T workforce. Like the other industrialized nations, the United States faces a period of growing retirements among its S&E workforce. Unlike them, it has a growing population whose average age is projected to decline rather than increase. Its college-age population will increasingly be made up of minority group members, such as Hispanics, blacks, and American Indian/ Alaskan Natives, whose current participation rates in S&E are half or less those of white non-Hispanic students. As lower proportions of white non-Hispanic men obtain S&E degrees, the importance of women and minorities pursuing degrees in these fields rises.

Over the past 2 decades, the U.S. S&E workforce has grown at more than four times the rate of total employment, in part because of the U.S. ability to integrate large numbers of foreign-born scientists and engineers into its workforce. Nevertheless, barring changes in current retirement, degree production, and immigration trends, the growth of the S&E workforce will slow down, leading to a rising average age.

Information about some key indicators is missing. This scenario does not include the potential effects on foreign scientists’ longer term willingness to work or study in the United States caused by the nation’s reaction to the attacks of September 2001. It does not reflect restrictions the U.S. government might place on foreign scientists’ access to the United States. Most important, it does not include indicators on U.S.- and foreign-based firms’ inclination to locate operations overseas in pursuit of new markets, well-trained talent, and lower costs.

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