** Book Review: Falling Behind? Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent

May 9th, 2015

Mike Teitelbaum has the credentials to settle this question once and for all: is there a critical shortage of American scientists and engineers as big business contends when they try to import more foreigners? Or is there a glut as underemployed post-docs believe when they try to find a real job?

First his chops. He is a highly respected demographer, whose career started with a Rhodes Scholarship, went on to senior jobs in the Congress, as vice president of the Sloan Foundation, and now as a researcher at Harvard. His many books have been well-received, and most recently the top journal in science,called Science oddly enough, recognized him as the person of the year in the field of science careers, probably because of this book. Bio

On a more humble level, in January 1995 your reviewer took a job as a legislative assistant in a Texas congressman’s office. As I was unpacking my briefcase, I was visited by some lobbyists wearing shiny boots. They were from Texas Instruments, and pointed with alarm at an impending crisis in engineering manpower, unless Congress provided more foreign workers via the H1B visa program. I was puzzled by this since I personally knew that jobs in engineering were not so easy to get after the end of the Cold War. Indeed, I was soon visited by another lobbyist, in scuffed loafers, who had lost his job at IBM when it brought in cheaper foreign engineers, and was taking advantage of his ample free time to report this to Members of Congress. Disclosure: I have worked at TI myself, and in 1995 I was an IEEE Congressional Fellow. The IEEE position was that the first guys were wrong, and the second guy was right. But we didn’t have the evidence to prove this. Now we do, thanks to this book.

Actually, it’s simple. Economics 101 says that if there was a shortage in the U.S., pay and working conditions for engineers and scientists would improve to attract more. This is not happening now, but it was just the situation when I graduated during the Cold War in 1960; defense contractors flew me first class all over the country to try to recruit me into a private office, but I foolishly went to MIT on an all-expenses-paid fellowship instead. Now an engineer is lucky to get a cubicle, working as an independent contractor without benefits and with zero job security. And the pitiful science post-docs don’t even get a cubicle, they just borrow a couple of square feet of a library table for their (own) laptop to try to do enough research to get a job.

R. D. Shelton

Falling Behind?: Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent Hardcover – March 30, 2014
by Michael S. Teitelbaum. available from amazon.com

** Book Review: Is American Science in Decline?

May 4th, 2015

Yu Xie and Alexandra Killewald have good news for Americans. They have concluded that American science is NOT in decline. Their glass is more than half full, even brimming. There’s just one hitch. They really only looked at a small part of American science: mainly its human resources.

Graduates can be considered to be one output of America’s science establishment, but there are actually a few others that might even be more important–like discoveries from research and innovations from development.   One can measure papers, patents, citations, prototypes and pilot plants, high-technology exports, and the investments that make these outputs possible. Those indicators of R&D are not nearly so favorable to the U.S. 

The authors’ try to broaden their scope by citing a 2008 RAND report that largely based its findings on indicators from many years earlier. which I pointed out at the time.  When your competitors’ indicators are increasing exponentially, it isn’t wise to use old data.  Most notably, China has come out of nowhere with a skyrocketing challenge to the U.S. in many indicators of science and technology, as well as in business. This competition for market share extends to the placement of scientific papers in a fairly fixed number of slots in journals, explaining why American growth rates in publications tanked in recent years as they report in Chapter 2.

Revealingly, the authors divide those writing in this domain into two camps. They use the pejorative term “alarmist” to characterize those who think that American science is in decline, while they have no comparable term for the critics of the alarmists, like themselves. My thesaurus draws a blank for an antonym, but I might suggest “pollyannas.”

To be fair, the authors have provided a competent analysis of the limited domain of science education and jobs for graduates, and they do also cover some surveys of Americans’ attitude toward science.  The NSF survey always reports that the public loves what it is doing.  I wonder about that since so many of the American public seem to have swallowed a lot of denial propaganda about climate change, evolution, vaccines, and the age of the Earth.

I agree with the authors that there is no great shortage of American scientists–rather the opposite.  Pay for scientists in the U.S.  has not risen, as it would if there was really a shortage. Producing more would simply result in more underemployed post-docs.  Systems engineers would recognize this as a classic problem.  You have to find the bottleneck resource that is limiting overall performance of a system, since efforts to improve other resources will be wasted.  While I understand that the authors want to look at the U.S. alone, learning from our competitors’ alternate universes can help with this identification.  My stats show that China is surging ahead of us because it has been increasing real R&D investment by over 15% per year compared to our 3% or less.  It takes money to do science today, and lots of it.  Thus the bottleneck resource in the American science enterprise is R&D funding, not human resources.  A book that is largely based on human resources can be a misleading guide to the question in its title.

An Alarmist

The Science Coalition Promotes American Leadership of Science

May 2nd, 2015

This coalition gets some ink by an annual award to someone, usually a Member of Congress, who supports their goals. The most recent (3/16/15) “Champion of Science” was Senator Dick Durban (D – Illinois).

“The Science Coalition (TSC) is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization of the nation’s leading public and private research universities. It is dedicated to sustaining strong federal funding of basic scientific research as a means to stimulate the economy, drive innovation and secure America’s global competitiveness. Learn more at www.sciencecoalition.org.”

The list of reports at their site tries to make the case that basic research is good for America, more research would be better, but what would it really take for America to be the best?  Well, that will take more motivation that recognizing one of the 535 Members once a year. I think that national security might be that motivation, now the missing item in their goals.

Still, I support what they are trying to do, of course. Too bad there is no way for individuals to participate in their organization.

R. D. Shelton

** June 2, 2015 Workshop on Nanomodular Materials & Systems by Design

January 19th, 2015

The study is on design and assembly of nanoscale materials into useful devices. It uses a case study based on the exciting new two-dimensional materials like graphene, which are particularly promising for applications in electronics, energy storage, coatings, and other fields.

This study is being conducted by a panel of experts chaired by Pulickel Ajayan from Rice University. Others on the panel include: Kaustav Banerjee (UCSB),
Don Brenner (NCSU), Ahmed Busnaina (Northeastern), Padma Gopalan (Wisconsin), and Charlie Johnson (Penn).  In March the panel visited top labs in Asia–Singapore, China, Japan, and Korea.  In April the team went to Europe–Switzerland, France, Belgium, Ireland, and UK. They also organized a half-dozen workshops abroad to help gather information.

The final workshop will be held at NSF from 8AM to 4PM, in Room 1235, the boardroom of the National Science Board. There is more information at http://wtec.org/nmsd  The workshop will also be webcast and archived for later viewing at http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/nsf/150602/

 

 

R. D. Shelton

** Brain Imaging Report Published

January 19th, 2015

Baltimore, MD, January 19, 2015 – The WTEC report on international study of neuroimaging is now posted at http://www.wtec.org/neuralimaging/docs/Neuroimaging-FinalReport-Web.pdf

The study was funded by NSF, the National Institutes of Health, and the Office of Naval Research. It was conducted by seven expert panelists who carried out peer reviews of research abroad. This included visiting the sites of the research institutions and researchers who are noted for the most advanced work in Europe, Asia, and Australia. More than 30 foreign sites were visited during 2013-2014,

The panel evaluated emerging computational neurodiagnostic methods. The findings include: MRI acquisition strategies for advancing neuroscience, interpretation and analysis of the fMRI signal. Use of MRI, fMRI, CAT, PET, ECG, EEG, SCR, voxel-based morphometry, endocrine sampling, and near-infrared spectroscopy to detect neural signatures of psychiatric and behavioral disorders, plus computing infrastructure and more.

The neuroimaging panel was chaired by Prof. Lilianne Mujica-Parodi from Stony Brook University. Also on the panel were Dr. Peter Bandettini from the National Institute of Mental Health, Prof. Bin He of the University of Minnesota, Dr. Tom Cortese of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Prof. Gary Glover from Stanford University, Prof. Tor Wager of the University of Colorado, and Dr. Lawrence Wald of the Martinos Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

For more information, please visit the WTEC neuralimaging page for more information. A link to the webcast of the final workshop is posted there.

 

R. D. Shelton

About WTEC:

The World Technology Evaluation Center is the nation’s leading organization in conducting international technology assessments via peer review. WTEC has conducted over 70 such studies since 1989 under grants from a variety of Federal agencies. For more information, visit WTEC.

For more information: Ms. Patricia Foland, Vice President for International Operations, WTEC, pfoland@scienceus.org, Phone: 410-691-1579.

** Renewable Energy and Systems Engineering: An International Perspective

October 24th, 2014

WTEC has recently completed a study on the R&D being done around the world to help renewable energy fit into existing energy infrastructures, like electrical grids.  That requires systems engineering on a scale beyond anything done before.  To make progress, WTEC sent a team of U.S. experts to top labs in Europe and Asia to bring back good ideas.  The final report is at http://wtec.org/SEEM/  A video version of the final workshop has been archived and can be viewed by registering at: http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/nsf/130314/

About WTEC:
The World Technology Evaluation Center is the nation’s leading organization in conducting international technology assessments via peer review. WTEC has conducted over 70 such studies since 1989 under grants from many Federal agencies. For more information, visit http://www.wtec.org.

** Engineering Solutions for Cancer: An International Perspective

October 20th, 2014

Baltimore, MD, February 1, 2014.  The final report of the WTEC “APHELION” study has been published.  The study was done by a team of American experts who visited some of the world’s best labs in Asia, Europe, and Israel.  The scope included the application of concepts from the physical sciences and engineering to cancer treatment and to biological sciences generally.   The study was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, NSF, and NIBIB.  Prof. Paul Janmey from Penn was the chair.

 

There is more information about the study at  http://www.wtec.org/aphelion/

The webinar from the final workshop is archived at http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/NIH/131121/

The final report is posted at  http://www.wtec.org/aphelion/AphelionFinalReport-web.pdf

 

About WTEC:

The World Technology Evaluation Center is the nation’s leading organization in conducting international technology assessments via peer review. WTEC has conducted over 70 such studies since 1989 under grants from a variety of Federal agencies. For more information, visit WTEC.

For more information: Ms. Patricia Foland, Vice President for International Operations, WTEC, pfoland@scienceus.org, Phone: 410-691-1579.

 

Stem Cell Engineering: An International Perspective

October 20th, 2014

Baltimore, MD, July 1, 2014.  Springer has just published an attractive new book based on the WTEC study on stem cell engineering.  There’s more information about the study at http://wtec.org/SCE/  To purchase the book, just go to amazon.com and search on the author’s name Robert Nerem.

About WTEC:

The World Technology Evaluation Center is the nation’s leading organization in conducting international technology assessments via peer review. WTEC has conducted over 70 such studies since 1989 under grants from a variety of Federal agencies. For more information, visit WTEC.

For more information: Ms. Patricia Foland, Vice President for International Operations, WTEC, pfoland@scienceus.org, Phone: 410-691-1579.

** BioManufacturing R&D: An International Perspective

September 27th, 2014

What’s the next big thing in replaceable body parts?

Cyborgs are trending from science fiction to reality shows. People with superior artificial parts have been fantasies since at least the popular 1970s sitcom, the Six Million Dollar Man, and many films that explore the possibilities. Now science fact is rapidly catching up with science fiction.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could buy spare parts for your body, just as you do for your car? Researchers around the world are pursuing this dream, and are making great progress. More and more spare parts are already being used to help patients recover from burns, bum knees, and even failure of whole organs. While artificial organ transplants are now limited to relatively simple ones like bladders, researchers are working on much more ambitious goals like kidneys, livers, and even hearts. (Brains are not included! Yet.)

Some of America’s top experts on the exciting new field of bio manufacturing recently visited the some of the best labs in Europe and Asia to bring back good ideas. They will present their results at a workshop on November 5, and you can attend for free. Just go to http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/nsf/141105/ to register.  Or you can call 410-691-1579.

About WTEC:

The World Technology Evaluation Center is the nation’s leading organization in conducting international technology assessments via peer review. WTEC has conducted over 70 such studies since 1989 under grants from a variety of Federal agencies. For more information, visit WTEC.

For more information: Ms. Patricia Foland, Vice President for International Operations, WTEC, pfoland@scienceus.org, Phone: 410-691-1579.

 

R. D. Shelton

 

Brain Imaging R&D: An International Perspective

March 19th, 2014

Register to view the archived webcast.

ARLINGTON, VA, February 20, 2014 – A panel of some of America’s top experts on brain imaging will present their findings from an international study of biomedical imaging at a workshop to be held at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, VA on May 23, 2014.

The study was funded by NSF, the National Institutes of Health, and the Office of Naval Research. It was conducted by seven expert panelists who carried out peer reviews of research abroad. This included visiting the sites of the research institutions and researchers who are noted for the most advanced work in Europe, Asia, and Australia. More than 30 foreign sites were visited during 2013-2014,

The panel evaluated emerging computational neurodiagnostic methods. The findings that will be discussed at this conference include: MRI acquisition strategies for advancing neuroscience, interpretation and analysis of the fMRI signal. Use of MRI, fMRI, CAT, PET, ECG, EEG, SCR, voxel-based morphometry, endocrine sampling, and near-infrared spectroscopy to detect neural signatures of psychiatric and behavioral disorders, plus computing infrastructure and more.

The neuroimaging panel is chaired by Prof. Lilianne Mujica-Parodi from the Stony Brook University. Also on the panel are Dr. Peter Bandettini from the National Institute of Mental Health, Prof. Bin He of the University of Minnesota, Dr. Tom Cortese of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Prof. Gary Glover from Stanford University, Prof. Tor Wager of the University of Colorado, and Dr. Lawrence Wald of the Martinos Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

The public may attend the workshop free, but space is limited, so that registration is required. The workshop will also be webcast live. Viewers will have the ability to submit questions for the panelists during the event. For more information and to register, please visit the WTEC neuralimaging page for more information.

About WTEC:

The World Technology Evaluation Center is the nation’s leading organization in conducting international technology assessments via peer review. WTEC has conducted over 70 such studies since 1989 under grants from a variety of Federal agencies. For more information, visit WTEC.

For more information: Ms. Patricia Foland, Vice President for International Operations, WTEC, pfoland@scienceus.org, Phone: 410-691-1579.


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