Archive for the ‘S&T Personnel’ Category

2010 Edition of NSF S&EI Shows US Decline

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Every two years the NSF/SRS Division produces a wonderful collection of science and engineering indicators, mostly on the US, but with a lot of international comparisons.  Many analysts, including myself, use the data that they have compiled to draw additional conclusions.  I’ll post an example of this next.

For some years I have been pointing with alarm at the loss of US S&T leadership, based this data and other sources.  This year NSF is finally highlighting the same issue, after years of downplaying it.  The first sentence in their press release announcing the report says, “The state of the science and engineering (S&E) enterprise in America is strong, yet its lead is slipping…” which is attributed to Rolf Lehming.  In the next paragraph, Kei Kozumi of OSTP, says, “U.S. dominance has eroded significantly.”

The press release has links to the report and its data in .pdf  and .xls format.

R. D. Shelton

Maintaining U.S. Scientific Leadership: English and Immigrants are the Immediate Needs

Monday, December 14th, 2009

This posting at Science Progress is ancient history in blogging terms. But wait! Why do the value of blogs have to be measured in days?  It’s true that my favorites, the Huffington Post and Wonkette, report on current events, but the blog medium is supposed to be an on-line journal of some lasting value.  Indeed, search engines find older posts even easier than new.  This short essay is just as true today as when it was written a couple of years ago.

Dr. R. O. Lempert of GWU has provided a thoughtful analysis of why the US is declining (relatively) in science, and he has some good ideas about how to deal with that decline. Others have also pointed out the critical need to maintain the flow of the immigrants who bolster our science and technology. I hadn’t previously thought, however, of the need to encourage the continued use of English as the language of science.

R. D. Shelton

China’s Emerging Technological Edge by Simon and Cao

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

The controversy over the influential “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report brought the issue of China’s science personnel to national attention.  The Academy’s “RAGS” report got the attention of the White House and Congress partly by pointing with alarm at huge and rapidly growing numbers of technical graduates in China.  Then it was found that some of the data used was suspect, undercutting some of the basis for the American Competitiveness Initiative and the America COMPETES Act. 

Simon and Cao have perfomed a much needed service in compiling a defensible database and a comprehensive analysis of Chinese data on their human resources in scientific and technology (HRST). While their findings are much more nuanced than those in the RAGS report, they confirm that its general picture was true.  Chinese HRST is growing rapidly in quantity and quality, contributing to a challenge to Western science leadership generally. While rapid growth has its problems, as the authors show, huge investments in science education are paying quick dividends to China’s efforts to become an S&T superpower.  Unlike the West, there is no shortage in China of well-qualified students who want to train for science careers; with a population of 1.3 billion, China has more smart people than the US has people.

Of course, the book’s focus on HRST prevents detailed coverage of other factors contributing to China’s sharp advance in S&T.  Your reviewer believes that huge and rapidly increasing direct investments in R&D are even more important.

R. D. Shelton

PRC Passed US in S&E PhDs in 2006

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

I regret to report that another of our pessimistic forecasts in the Rio paper has come to pass.  According to the new book, China’s Emerging Technological Edge by Denis Simon and Cong Cao, the PRC produced more (26,396) doctorates in science and engineering than the US (with 22,316) in 2006, plus 4323 of those US grads were Chinese nationals.  The book cites (NSF 2007) as a source, but I can’t find this in the book; I’ll try to track it down at NSF.  I’m sure it is accurate, though, because when I plotted the curves through 2005, it was obvious that the Chinese one would soon cross the US one.

This is a spectacular achievement.  Again according to this book, China produced no PhDs until after the end of the Cultural Revolution.  It produced its first 13 in 1982, all in S&T.  I can’t calculate the compound growth rate here, but if you had bought a round lot of stock with this kind of growth in 1982, you would now be as rich as Bill Gates.

Of course this is not a natural economic phenomenon.  The CCP has adopted policies to funnel vast and rapidly increasing investments into this sector, just as they have in R&D.  And they are not wasting their money.  Outputs like PhDs in S&E and scientific papers in the world’s leading journals have quickly gone from nothing to the point where they have passed the US or soon will.

Congratulations to the winners, but the losers may rue the day when they fell behind.

 R. D. Shelton

China’s Emerging Technological Edge

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

This new Cambridge University Press book focuses on the rapid growth of S&T personnel in China–in quantity and quality. If you don’t have your reading glasses, its exact title is China’s Technological Edge: Assessing the Role of High-End Talent. Here’s a review by Adam Segel:

‘Exploiting a wide range of primary and secondary sources, Denis Fred Simon and Cong Cao have produced an extensively researched, finely argued, and methodologically sophisticated study of science and engineering talent in China. This book will be a critical resource for all those in business, academia, and the policy making community who wish to better understand China’s ability to develop and foster innovation.’ Adam Segal, Council on Foreign Relations.

Sounds interesting to me. The influential Rising Above the Gathering Storm report was criticised over its stats on Chinese HR, and I’ll bet these folks have more data.  I’ll have to surf over to Amazon and buy a copy.

R. D. Shelton

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