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Top Advisory Panel Warns Erosion of U.S. Science 954

Posted by Zonk
from the raise-your-hand-if-you-are-surprised dept.
fbg111 writes "From the NYT: A panel of experts convened by the National Academies, the nation's leading science advisory group, called yesterday for an urgent and wide-ranging effort to strengthen scientific competitiveness. The 20-member panel, reporting at the request of a bipartisan group in Congress, said that without such an effort the United States 'could soon lose its privileged position.' It cited many examples of emerging scientific and industrial power abroad and listed 20 steps the United States should take to maintain its global lead."
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Top Advisory Panel Warns Erosion of U.S. Science

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  • Not Surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geomon (78680) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:29PM (#13782904) Homepage Journal
    Considering how the attack on science by religious conservatives has reached a fever pitch, I am not surprised that fewer people are entering the hard sciences as a career. When every scientific discovery is met by screeches and howls by the religious right, the general public is left with the impression that scientists are just another protected minority who are forcing their views on the rest of society. There is little to no discourse on *how* these scientific discoveries are vetted; but even if the scientific method were explained in detail, the public has shown it still wants to believe in magic.

    Biology and any other field of science dealing with the age of the Earth are destined to decline in the US. The balance of power has already tipped decidedly to non-US schools in technical training in these fields and will continue. This report will be ignored because Congress owes too much to the religious right to do anything that advances knowledge in human evolution or radiometric dating.

    Any student of history knows that Scopes lost his trial. Things haven't changed that much in the US in nearly a century.
    • by cparisi (136611) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:36PM (#13782980) Homepage
      Yes, let's pray to God that people come to their senses!
    • by Gnpatton (796694) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:37PM (#13782992)
      I really don't feel that religion has anything to do with this. Most people, even the so called religions right are NOT anti-science. Actually, I could easily see any person living in the United States become deeply conserned in loosing its posisition as a top technological and scientific country, even those conservatives you speak of.

      Realistically, the reason is the almighty dollar. Everything revolves around it, it always has and always will. In the US $$ speaks more than any religious morals.
      • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:40PM (#13783026) Homepage Journal

        Realistically, the reason is the almighty dollar. Everything revolves around it, it always has and always will. In the US $$ speaks more than any religious morals

        How is it profitable to lose your leading standing in scientific fields? Who would want such a thing? No, I think the original poster was bang-on. Superstition is killing your country.
        • by atrizzah (532135) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:45PM (#13783087)
          I don't know if your post was meant to be funny or not. The reason is called short-sightedness, and it's prevalent in pretty much everything our government does, i.e. energy policy, foreign policy, economic policy. Need any more examples?
        • by TheCaptain (17554) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:54PM (#13783737)
          How is it profitable to lose your leading standing in scientific fields?

          Well...it's not - on a national scale. On a personal level, however, it can be very profitable. Unfortunately, from what I have seen, project managers and middle management in general make higher salaries than the engineers who are actually doing the work. I've actually seen engineers who got an engineering degree, only to be a mediocre engineer for a few years while they part time for an MBA to move on into management where they can make "real money" and work their way up the executive ladder. Heck...alot of people don't even bother with the engineering degree as an ungraduate - they go for business and go straight into an MBA program. I honestly hate MBA's, but the salaries I see them getting can be tempting.

          This is my opnion, but they tend to be the same people who valued high scores over actually learning and understanding a given subject in college..YMMV.
          • Spot on! It seems like people are taking to much stock in the, "You don't have to know how to do something to manage" philosophy. The fact is to be a good manager you do have to know the business of your group pretty damn well. How else can you know to put your people in the right spots and recognize the barriers. The only time a manager who doesn't "know" can do well is when his team consists of superstars.

            Also good engineers generally enjoy what they are doing and don't want to change to managment
      • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by snowwrestler (896305) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:18PM (#13783376)
        I really don't feel that religion has anything to do with this.

        You are wrong, as are the people you cite who are "not anti-science." Even if they dispute natural selection and genetics, they of course are pro-science when they are taking an ibuprofen or getting their children vaccinated or getting their yearly flu shot. And no one with a job or an investment portfolio wants to see America lose its technological edge.

        But you, like these people, are not drawing the connections between their actions and the results. Science is not just a collection of facts. You cannot just choose to support the knowledge that benefits you (flu vaccines) and fight against the knowledge that disagrees with your beliefs (carbon dated fossils, genetic evolution). Science is first and foremost a PROCESS (not a collection of "facts"), and if you attack the process you are attacking the development of the knowledge that benefits you as well as the knowledge you don't like.

        Developing an effective flu vaccine every year is absolutely impossible without basis in the theories of genetic inheritance and natural selection. These theories were not just proposed and voted on by scientists--they have resulted from and withstood investigation from the process of science, conducted by millions of independent scientists over decades.

        Attacking the theories in the way that many conservative religious groups have, is to attack the validity of the scientific process itself. It's pretty hard to do a good job educating and encouraging future scientists when the very concept of science is being subverted for religious or political ends.
      • by EggyToast (858951) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:22PM (#13783399) Homepage
        You touched on it, but I think the dollar argument could use more explanation.

        Yes, the reason science is on the decline is largely because politicians in power have devalued the work of scientists. Scientists work based on grants from governments in probably 75% of their research. Cutting funding not only means that there's less money for individual scientists, it also means that there's less room for new scientists in the field.

        As it is, there's absolutely no reason for a scientist to realistically pursue research that doesn't have a high payout factor. Looking into a field that has no tangible and direct marketability, meaning that the tech industries will ignore your results, is moot. Why bother if you can't work and make even a modest living?

        (It also doesn't help that scientists are disillusioned from teaching science, much in the same way an english teacher would be if they were told "Shakespeare was just a writer, and his works are viewed by some as offensive. We recommend the latest bestseller, available at Borders and Barnes & Noble for $19.95!")

        Seriously, though, if you want to look at what commercializing science leads to, you need look no further than the glut of copycat drugs on the market. Tons of allergy medicine, stomach medicine, and sex medicine. Nothing that really cures a problematic disease -- it's all comfort medicine that sells very well.

      • by hey! (33014) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:55PM (#13783758) Homepage Journal
        Most people, even the so called religions right are NOT anti-science.

        The problem is not what people think they believe, but what they actually do.

        Just as the problem is not people's morality that is wanting: it's the way they act.

        By the way, when we speak of the Religious Right, we are talking Christians of a certain stripe. Christianity is a very old religion. In its time frame, Right and Left as we know it are ephemeral: at various times in the last few centuries is found going along on either side of the road. In the era of William Jennings Bryan it was on the left; in the era of the Temperance Union it was allied with the (or a) women's movement.

        In the end though, it won't really fit for long on either end of the spectrum, and will in time go its own way. In the mean time, unfortunately, it seems to infect it's political allies with its least attractive attributes (the paternalism on the left and the self-righteousness of the right) and few of its virtues.

        Realistically, the reason is the almighty dollar. Everything revolves around it, it always has and always will. In the US $$ speaks more than any religious morals.

        Well put. And like the medieval Christians who enganged in acts of unspeakable cruelty and violence in the name of the Prince of Peace, it strikes me that many of our era endorse a life of materialism and greed, serving Mammon and God, except Mammon gets eight solid hours for five days a week. It also strikes me that in some ways the idea of "The Market" has taken on Godlike characteristics: benevolent, and of unquestionable, all-knowing divine wisdom. Not that I don't think the Market is an amazing thing, but there's a difference between advancing the welfare of Humanity and advancing the welfare of people. No form of robbing Peter to pay Paul can be theft if it serves the Market because the Market serves Humanity.

        Alan Watts once insightfully remarked that the most insidious idols are made of ideas.

    • Seriously, what other country disparages its "intellectual elite"?

      Getting 10,000 new teachers into the school system isn't going to help if they have to teach religion in their science classes. Welcome to the US where 1 in 5 people believe the Sun revolves around the Earth.

      Our problem isn't that we don't have enough teachers.

      Our problem is that being smarter than the average makes those average people hate you. Most of them don't want to know that what they believe is wrong and they'll oppose anyone who tri
      • The People's Republic of China (early on)
        The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
        Nazi Germany
        Facist Italy
        Rawanda about 10 years ago

        A real "who's who" amongst nations to be sure. I sure am glad my country ranks amongst them.
        • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:54PM (#13783189)
          Now go and look at the history of those countries from the time when they decided that being one of the "intellectual elite" was a bad thing.

          To me, it seems that they all declined pretty quickly and either vanished or are still on the bottom of the heap ... unless they changed their opinion.

          You got two options people:
          Either wise up and realize that being smarter is a good thing
          or
          Practice sucking up to whatever country will surpass us.
      • Jesus, this should be modded WAY down. When the "intellectual elite" talk this way about the "average" people, why shouldn't they hate you? Assuming you are in some way qualified to be considered in the intellectual elite. My experience is that most people who think they are so qualified, aren't particularly impressive. If intellectual elitists are going to talk about average people like they're chimps, a the way people on slashdot usually do, how can you blame anyone for not wanting to listen to what you h
        • Jesus, this should be modded WAY down.

          So ... what you're saying is that opinion doesn't match the opinion of people who have mod points right now. That's understandable.

          When the "intellectual elite" talk this way about the "average" people, why shouldn't they hate you?

          Because that is an emotional reaction. If those people who still believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth have a problem with someone telling them they're wrong and using them as an example of why the US is losing in this field, why

        • If intellectual elitists are going to talk about average people like they're chimps, a the way people on slashdot usually do, how can you blame anyone for not wanting to listen to what you have to say?

          Who cares how much of an asshole somebody is when you are talking about the truth. Seriously, what is more important to you? Knowledge or not being offended?
        • Average people are chimps. At least the sure act like chimps.

          It's often nice, thinking you live in a country where the touchy-feely value of everyone having an equal opinion theoretically takes precedence over more qualified people making the decisions. Of course, the people in power to make the decisions have historically not been the most qualified anyway, so I don't think it would work out otherwise.

          Very out of character for me, wow. I like democracy. But on the average, people really don't understand a
    • Re:Not Surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Comatose51 (687974)
      "The balance of power has already tipped decidedly to non-US schools in technical training in these fields and will continue."

      China already produces 800,000+ graduates every year with technical degrees. That's faster than we can produce McWorkers and we wonder why jobs are going overseas. They can say whatever anti-foreign slogan, "Made in America" speech they want. At the end of the day, the jobs will go to the qualified people who can do it the cheapest.

    • Re:Not Surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kbonin (58917) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:50PM (#13783134) Homepage
      I have to agree with the other posters here that this isn't about religion.

      I see two problems:

      The first is education - the crap that is called "science education" in the schools in this country is raising idiots. They are taught to regurgitate "facts", and the definition of "fact" has changed from "what is provable" to "what we tell you". Critical thinking is discouraged, experimentation has no lab budget, and standards are dropping wildly. I read once (can't find source) that several decades ago most middle school girls could tell you what an aileron was. Today I'd be surprised if more than a few percent of high school graduates have a clue.

      The other problem is money and the absolute focus most entities (commercial and educational) now have on short-term profitability. Real science means taking risks, thinking about the long term, spending time on basic science so you can reap the rewards of understanding new principles, then discovering how they may be applied. Today any idea that looks unlikely to be signifigantly profitable within 18 months has almost no chance for funding. This is a good part of the reason why basic progress is stalling in most areas of science that do not have immediate commercial applications.

      Fixing either of these requires fundamental changes in the mindset. Neither are likely to happen anytime soon, mostly for the same two reasons...
      • Re:Not Surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

        by the_real_bto (908101) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:30PM (#13783501)
        It isn't just science education. It's the math education, too. Math education in this country sucks. Really sucks.

        All the math classes I have seen or heard of in the US are all about learning the "designated correct" way of doing things. If you came to the right answer using sound mathematical principles that differ from the procedural manner taught, you are marked wrong. It's as if learning about mathematics and learning how to do well in math class are two entirely different subjects.

        The current system teaches following directions at the expense of critical thinking. Learning to follow directions is certainly useful, but it shouldn't be the entire point of math classes and the educational system as a whole.

        What we have is a system that turns out automatons, not intelligent people capable of *using* math (and other education) as a tool. Here is an inside opinion on what our school system really teaches, from the state of NY's Teacher of the Year:

        http://www.cantrip.org/gatto.html [cantrip.org]
      • Testify, brother! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Medievalist (16032) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @02:28PM (#13784078)

        Yeah, my kid listed "air" as part of his answer to "name four natural resources" and got points marked off (air, despite being a non-synthetic commodity resource, was not listed in the book).

        I should mention that just outside of town the local gas company has a tower where they compress air to extract oxygen, nitrogen, and argon for commercial sale.

        The same teacher marked "fuel" as a correct answer to the same question. When I pointed out that many fuels are synthetic, and thus not natural resources, it became apparent that the teacher did not know what natural resources actually are, and was simply parroting an incorrect textbook.

        I know plenty of religious people who would never make such a stupid mistake; but the next generation is having all this wrong information drilled into them in lieu of actual education.
    • Re:Not Surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

      by isa-kuruption (317695) <`ten.noitpuruk' `ta' `noitpuruk'> on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:53PM (#13783179) Homepage
      I think placing the blame simply on the "religious right" is a little biased. It is obvious you are not religious, and it seems like you may even fear religious people, but to blame the lackluster teaching of science in schools on the "religious right" is simply wrong.

      This doesn't have anything to do with our scientific advances *now* as opposed to how it's taught in school. The "religion right" has no influence in our schools (thanks to the Supreme Court).

      So if the religious right is so bad about science, how do you explain the better scientific education of kids coming out of religious private schools? When I graduated, I had taken both Chem II AP and Physics II AP, and got my college credits. Did my local public school even have similar courses? No.

      Let's talk about the real problems with public education, and we will find an answer to our problems. How am I authoritative? My girlfriend and father teach or have taught middle school.

      Problems:

      Social promotion. Yes, it exists. My father was threatened with being fired for not promoting a kid to the 9th grade after failing his social studies class. The reason? The principal "wanted to get rid of the troublemaker".

      Parental duties. I hear stories from my girlfriend all the time about the parents who don't care. I hear the "yups" and "uh-huhs" from my father who got the same thing 30 years ago. Parents are caring less and less about the education of their children. When kids get a bad grade, parents call to complain about how the teacher is offending their kid. When kids act bad, parents call to complain about how the school is insensitive.

      Education funding. Huge problem in many states, but mostly only in the poorer areas of the state. My girlfriend works in a school district that belongs to the poorest area of Maryland. The state and federal government provides some relief, but the real problem is that the money is being wasted (given the previous two problems) on many students. The students who want to learn can not because they are being held back by the students who do not want to learn. Attempts to get kids into private schools via vouches hit a big road block when democrats objected to it. Despite the fact it would both 1) reduce the number of students per class and 2) provide more money per student; seems irrelevant to Democrats who rather keep a socialist program alive and well, even if it means dumbing down the children.
      Community Support. What have you done for YOUR local public school? I like to provide some money and have even offered to help with some computer learning (rejected everytime, it seems that the elitests only want people with college masters degrees). Bt I still give money to the schools during fundraisers and actually vote for members of the school board. Considering I do not have children, this is the best I can do. But then again, even if I did have children, they probably would go to a private school where science and mathematics doesn't lag behing as much.
      • Re:Not Surprising (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dancpsu (822623)
        Education funding. Huge problem in many states

        I don't think this is the root problem. I think the root problem is teachers unions. If we truly rewarded excellent teachers in public schools, I think taxpayers would be more willing to fully fund public education. If you switch parents for teachers' unions in your problems list, then it would read the same. Teachers unions do "social promotion", and in fact care about little else from what I see. Even an extension from 2 to 5 years to a tenure position
      • Re:Not Surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mournblade (72705)
        "So if the religious right is so bad about science, how do you explain the better scientific education of kids coming out of religious private schools?"

        Because in religious private schools, one of the required classes each year is Theology. When you have an entire class period each day to devote to religious education, you don't need to cram it into other classes, leaving more time in those classes to teach what you're supposed to. At least that's how it worked in my (private, catholic) high school.
      • The "religion right" has no influence in our schools (thanks to the Supreme Court).

        Sorry, but you're both wrong and naive here. There are quite a few Wingnut-Americans on local and state school boards, and school boards have a strong influence on schools. The state of Texas has done a lot to water down science and health education by refusing to buy 'unacceptable' textbooks [nsta.org], and Texas is such a large market that most publishers don't bother making a second edition that leaves the science in. It's not just
      • Re:Not Surprising (Score:3, Insightful)

        by greg_barton (5551)
        So if the religious right is so bad about science, how do you explain the better scientific education of kids coming out of religious private schools?

        Socioeconomic level, the single greatest positive indicator of educational acheivement. By definition, someone who can afford to attend a private school is of a higher socioeconomic than someone who cannot. QED.

  • but we more than make up for it with intelligent desing
  • by nokilli (759129) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:29PM (#13782907)
    It isn't just science. It literally hurts to be intelligent today. The kid comes into the world, sees what a great big pile of shit it all is, and then is given two choices: work hard to excel at making it an even bigger pile of shit, or smoke pot and listen to music or play games on the computer all day.

    It's red pill vs. blue pill, and now that everybody has seen how the trilogy ends, blue pill wins every time. Want to change it? Take the Nazi out of Amerika and put forward a vision of where this country is going to be in twenty years that doesn't involve killing and torturing innocent people around the world.

    Really it comes down to this: the propaganda being dished by The New York Times/CNN works well, but only for the retards. The kids you want to see building tomorrow's superweapons can think for themselves, and therefore see this shit for what it is.

    And when you think about it, would you really have it any other way?
    --
    You didn't know. [tinyurl.com]
  • Teh pain! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kelson (129150) * on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:30PM (#13782911) Homepage Journal

    Copied verbatim from TFA:

    The 20-member panel, reporting at the request of a bipartisan group in Congress, said that without such an effort the United States "could soon loose its privileged position."

    If nothing else convinces you of the magnitude of this problem, consider the fact that The New York Times confused "lose" and "loose."

    • by saskboy (600063)
      Media in a lot of respects is responsible for the slide into a dumbing down of our society. The venerable Jon Stewart for example may have common sense when it comes to domestic politics and comedy, but he sucks at science. His eyes glaze over whenever a scientific topic comes up, and the jokes are always lame when he's discussing space or discovery.

      Hundreds of years ago the most read books were written by scientists like Newton. Now that anyone can write for the world to read it, it only stands to reaso
  • by mekkab (133181) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:30PM (#13782912) Homepage Journal
    Given the United States penchant for spin, as evidenced by its political problems, we feel it necessary to warn you that U.S. Science may infact try to state that you don't exist.

    Keep a sharp watch!

    signed,
    Advisory Panel
  • Expected (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sg3000 (87992) * <sg_public@m[ ]com ['ac.' in gap]> on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:32PM (#13782934)
    The 20-member panel, reporting at the request of a bipartisan group in Congress, said that without such an effort the United States 'could soon loose its privileged position.'

    Wait, shouldn't this be "lose" and not "loose"? It's in the NYT article too, and I would assume they can spell.

    One major question is why the Panel didn't mention the fact that religious fundamentalists are trying to legislate science out of the classroom, as illustrated by the Intelligent Design lawsuit [nytimes.com] going on in Pennsylvania? If you're not allowed to teach biology in science class, but instead, you must give "equal time" to "creationism", doesn't that tend to degrade science, too?

    It's not surprising that the U.S. will lose its scientific dominance. It's a combination of the guns versus butter argument [wikipedia.org], an alarming increase in the politicization of science, and the general retreat of science in the face of religious zealotry in this country. Overseas outsourcing of technical jobs isn't helping either.

    I imagine that after three more years of Bush being in office, we should be ecstatic if the majority of the population is still toilet trained.
  • by mobiux (118006) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:32PM (#13782938)
    By labeling "intelligent design" as science.

    When the label finally sticks, we'll be in the lead again. YAY!!!
    Kansas will be the new MIT.
  • by saskboy (600063) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:33PM (#13782946) Homepage Journal
    In response to a radio programme about Intelligent Design, I wrote the following, concerning the potential erorsion of science in Saskatchewan classrooms:

    John Gormley of 980 CJME.com had two guests debate Intelligent Design, and sadly almost 2:1 callers thought that ID should be in the science classroom. Every one that gave a reason why they thought that, presented a flawed understanding they held about a scientific concept. As one caller pointed out, only the United States is looking at this debate seriously, and every country in Europe is laughing at it because it's so stupid. Intelligent Design is an attack on science by Christian fundamentalists who want to get their foot in the secular school door. An understanding of science is a blow to the culture of ignorance that a few of the fundamentalist leaders count on to maintain control over a bewildered and sheep like flock.

            Here's what I wrote to Gormley, but he was only taking calls so it wasn't read on the air:
            Thank you for having a discussion about Intelligent Design today. Your guest Larry Krause put it so well when he said that the effort to insert creationism into the science classroom is a perhaps "well meaning attack on science". Intelligent Design makes no sense in Saskatchewan, where it's apparent that we'll have a half Aboriginal population in a few decades. If we're to require a creator to initiate our earth's development, why should it be a Christian God that puts it all in motion? There are a number of creation theories, and I've seen nothing that the Intelligent Design crowd has put forward that discounts a mythological figure from Aboriginal history being the earth's true creator.
    -
            I don't think it serves our children any better to have Aboriginal creation myths taught in science class than it does to teach them God created your little bits and it wasn't the laws of the universe that did it. But I wanted to make the point that this is about religion, and if someone who's for ID is against Aboriginal creation myth, then they show their true stripes. It isn't about an "intelligent designer" it's about Christianity's God. It isn't about the "science" behind ID [which there is none], it's about injecting Christian myth into a class that our future drug designers, and doctors rely upon to be effective professionals.
    • by spanklin (710953) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:51PM (#13783151)
      As one caller pointed out, only the United States is looking at this debate seriously, and every country in Europe is laughing at it because it's so stupid.

      I was at a conference recently where we were discussing the state of science literacy in the US, and a leading authority on the topic (Jon Miller from Northwestern University) showed the results of a survey conducted in the US and in Europe.

      I don't have a copy of his numbers, but I recall that his results showed that in the US, approximately 50% of those surveyed believed that evolution really occurs on the Earth. In Europe, using the same survey, the results for the same question were closer to 90% of those surveyed believe that evolution occurs.

      Scary.

  • by rovingeyes (575063) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:34PM (#13782965)
    "International students in the United States who receive doctorates in science, technology, engineering or math should get automatic one-year visa extensions that allow them to seek employment here. If these students get job offers and pass a security screening test, they should automatically get work permits and expedited residence status. If they cannot get a job, their visas should expire."

    This is sort of already in place. Every international student, who graduates can apply for a work permit known as OPT (Optional Practical Training, I believe). This allows that student to seek employment in a field that is relevant to his/her education and or qualification. It is not automatic but nonetheless I have yet to hear a student get rejected for it. But it ends right there. After the year is over the individual already has to have a work permit or have a petition for it to stay legally in this country. I have personally seen couple of brilliant students leave this country because they couldn't get the work permit in time. Thus this suggestion of "expedited residence status" could be a very benefecial.

    But now comes the ugly side of it. I bet the locals will not approve of it immediately, for very good reasons. Now they have to compete with potentially very hard working and probably smarter people for the same job. And I have seen instances where an American has been passed on for an Asian because they believe that person is going to work harder for less pay. But this new suggestion, if it becomes law, tilts the balance in favor of international students a bit. They can bargain for higher pay and will that cause any difference is to be seen. Now, IEEE was really campaigning hard to curtail H1B a year or so ago. We have to see how they react to it.

    • investment (Score:4, Interesting)

      by vlad_petric (94134) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:39PM (#13783010) Homepage
      If you invest a quarter of a million dollars into a foreign student (that's roughly the cost of a phd these days, at least at my university), sending them back to their countries is plainly dumb. Sure, they may out-compete Americans in the States, but that's still better than out-competing Americans from abroad.
  • by nighthawk (6500) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:35PM (#13782973)
    Use the same 20 step solution to the Lawyer and Doctor shortage
    1. Pay More
    2. Pay More
    3. Pay More
    4. Pay More
    5. Pay More
    6. Pay More
    7. Pay More
    8. Pay More
    9. Pay More
    10. Pay More
    11. Pay More
    12. Pay More
    13. Pay More
    14. Pay More
    15. Pay More
    16. Pay More
    17. Pay More
    18. Pay More
    19. Pay More
    20. Pay More

    The free market works. That's why our best and brighest are leaving Science. Dumbsh|ts!
    • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:47PM (#13783110)
      Except that regular people don't go out and hire an academic research scientist, like they do a lawyer, so there is no free market at work there. Academic research is a public good just like roads, mass transit, and parks. Some things don't happen without government sponsorship, and fundamental science, by and large, is one of them.

    • 1. Pay More
      2. Pay More....


      Yes, yes, yes!

      I desperately want to continue doing science for the rest of my career. I can easily get such a job. But the pay is just too low. The guy building my deck makes as much as a tenure-track professor, and he works fewer hours, too. I'm probably leaving for law or industry.

      It's feels like our society actively discourages science.
  • It's not political. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Puls4r (724907) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:37PM (#13782993)
    Let's get something straight. The pending doom of American science has very little to do with our political climate.

    It has far more to do with school administrations, culture, and parenting.

    #1 Tenure needs to be removed. Peer reviews need to be implemented. Salaries should be review / performance based. Schooling for teachers needs to be DRASTICALLY improved. Remove all the buzzword-techno-political crap that's found it's way into teaching and just TEACH.

    #2 Kids who aren't in school to learn need to be removed. Yeah, so be it, some kids don't get schooled. If they nor their parents can put forth the effort, then that's too bad. Sure, we'll hear sob stories about how some are going to get left behind. Let me clue you in to a little secret. If you hold back our best and brightest to make sure no one is "left behind" then you're going to DESTROY the best and brightest. Or at least you'll have managed to severely inhibit their potential.

    #3 Parenting. Why aren't parents do "fun" things like having foreign langauge weeks where they all try to speak different languages. Turn the fricken TV and computer off. Interact. Socialize. Take your kid out in the f'in garage and fix the car with him.

    Finally, TECHNICAL EDUCATIONS. Go to despair.com and read the quote that states not everyone grows up to be rocket scientists. It's true.
    • Hmm.

      I agree wholeheartedly with #2. #1 and #3 are problematic.

      #1 fails because teachers are not completely responsible for the results they are expected to achieve. Students must want to learn in order to display testable results. Also see #2 for part of why #1 fails -- re-evaluate your "very little to do with our political climate" with respect to what the teachers are expected to teach each year. Consider that the agenda changes with each administration (all levels from school to county to local to st
    • by American AC in Paris (230456) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:06PM (#13783278) Homepage
      Let's get something straight. The pending doom of American science has very little to do with our political climate.

      I don't think you're giving the political climate due consideration. While its effects are largely intangible, there's a creeping contempt for science that's gaining ground at all levels of government. What does your typical individual going to think about the value of science in general when a person no less than the president himself routinely and blithely disregards solid scientific findings in favor of ideological beliefs?

      We are watching a slow and painful relegation of science to the role of munitions manufacturer for various political interests. When was the last time you heard a major political figure say, "You know, I always thought that X was the case, but recent studies have led me to believe otherwise"?

      Remember, too, that school administrations and school boards are political institutions and have become increasingly politicized over the years.

    • The pending doom of American science has very little to do with our political climate.

      From TFA The panel cited many examples:
      Last year, more than 600,000 engineers graduated from institutions of higher education in China, compared to 350,000 in India and 70,000 in the United States.
      Recently, American 12th graders performed below the international average for 21 countries on general knowledge in math and science.
      The cost of employing one chemist or engineer in the United States is equal to about fiv

    • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:22PM (#13783408)
      Remove tenure? Let me guess. You're not a scientist!

      When every other country has a cushy tenure system and you're a top scientist who can work anywhere, why would you refuse tenure? You must think top scientists are stupid. Do you really think they like constantly updating their CV and preparing for, and doing, "productivity reviews"? Fornunately, what good scientists like is doing science, not constantly elbowing for position with their peers. That's a part of the whole point of tenure.

      The other part is that tenure insulates the scientist from the political fashions. Scientists research what they like, and whether or not it's popular with the current administration, their position is secure. If it weren't for that security, do you really think they'd work here?

    • by Have Blue (616) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:27PM (#13783463) Homepage
      #1: Absolutely not. If you think teachers just regurgitating what they're told to teach is a problem today, removing tenure would make it a hundred times worse. Tenure is what allows teachers to exert control over what happens in the classroom and to avoid being bound to someone else's agenda. This is why ID is being legislated into classrooms, because you can't just order them to put it in the curriculum.

      And besides, it's incompatible with your point #2. If a kid fails a class, who gets to decide if it was because he couldn't handle it or because the teacher was incompetent?
    • Remove all the buzzword-techno-political crap that's found it's way into teaching and just TEACH.

      See? So it is political. #2 Kids who aren't in school to learn need to be removed. Yeah, so be it, some kids don't get schooled. If they nor their parents can put forth the effort, then that's too bad. Sure, we'll hear sob stories about how some are going to get left behind. Let me clue you in to a little secret. If you hold back our best and brightest to make sure no one is "left behind" then you're going to D

    • by mkcmkc (197982)
      #1 Tenure needs to be removed.

      That'd sure make it easier to get rid of all of those stubborn jerks that don't want to teach creationism in their classes.

      #2 Kids who aren't in school to learn need to be removed.

      Yeah, if little Joey hasn't figured out by the second grade that he loves school, kick him out. Let him push a broom at the mill for a few years. That'll learn him.

      #3 Parenting. Why aren't parents do "fun" things like having foreign langauge weeks where they all try to speak different lang

  • by digitaldc (879047) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:40PM (#13783019)
    In response to the need to find out why scientific competetiveness was lacking, a study was initiated to solve this conundrum. However, the study was deemed inconclusive due to the lack of resources, mismatched numerical systems, and little or no understanding of the core problem.
  • Item #21 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:41PM (#13783031) Journal
    Block all U.S. based access to Slashdot. We've seen the effect it has had on our youth. We could cripple our enemies while at the same time bring up the IQ level here.
  • by keraneuology (760918) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:42PM (#13783054) Journal
    A major part of the problem is that profit is more important than innovation. Pure, unadulterated research for the sake of discovering new and better ways of doing things or even just learning something new is pretty much dead.

    How many corporations have scaled back or even eliminated their R&D departments because they won't turn a profit next quarter?

    How much money does big oil spend to suppress new technologies?

    Overly restrictive patents bar research by all who can't cough up the money to expand on somebody else's work.

    Kids are actively discouraged from tinkering for fear of hurting themselves or hurting somebody else's bottom line. Want to experiment with chemistry? Here's some lemon juice and baking soda - but we'll arrest you if you put it into a plastic bottle. Want to play with model rockets? Prove you aren't a terrorist. Want to hack your X-Box and see how circuits work? The FBI'll be knocking on your door. Biology? Take pictures of a worm, but make sure it isn't endangered. Engineering? The city'll come and fine you for not building your treehouse to code.

    When you get to college... how many professors actually teach science and how many spend all of their time seeking new grants to ensure the university can afford a new football stadium?

    And of the precious little research that actually is happening, how much is classified and never sees the light of day

    • When you get to college... how many professors actually teach science and how many spend all of their time seeking new grants to ensure the university can afford a new football stadium?

      WTF are you talking about? You do realize that research grant money goes directly into research, and that things like building football stadiums come from a completely different pot, mostly from alumni contributions ...

      I really don't know how to respond to this. Your post makes me think that you have been near a Universit

  • by mikers (137971) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:46PM (#13783093)
    From the FA:
    "...The cost of employing one chemist or engineer in the United States is equal to about five chemists in China and 11 engineers in India."

    And how exactly will increasing the number of chemists, engineers and scientists graduating each year increase the appeal of this career to students currently choosing careers in business and law?

    My thesis is that in increasing the amounts of graduates in sciences and "lowering prices" they will fail to actually improve the situation.

    Microeconomics [wikipedia.org] (oh yeah... THAT natural law) says that increasing the supply of these graduates will DECREASE the price they cost -- in other words by training more... they get cheaper!

    College kids are choosing business and law because (a) there are more jobs and (b) they pay better. Decreasing the pay chemists and engineers receive won't improve employment in this area. Why are there less computer scientists these days. Oh yeah, no jobs.

    Hence I posit that: Decreasing the cost of engineering and chemists will do nothing to increase the United States' competitiveness in these scientific endeavors

    m
  • Give up (Score:3, Insightful)

    by d_strand (674412) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:51PM (#13783145)
    Give it up USA, You've already lost. It's inevitable, in one generation or so the american supremacy will have gone the way of the dodo bird.

    Seriously, I'm absolutely not one of the US-haters common here, but I can see what way your contry is heading. Things like general education has a huge social inertia or whatever you want to call it. Changing the course of a society takes a huge, concentrated effort over a long period of time. Thats not gonna happen, more like the opposite.

    (and spare me the comments about my spelling)
    • Changing the course of a society takes a huge, concentrated effort over a long period of time.

      This is certainly true, and points out one reason why the U.S. is sliding in science and other countries (primarily in Europe and Asia) are reaching and passing contributions U.S. science has made. By "U.S. science" I mean companies that are essentially headquartered in the U.S. and are supported by U.S. universities. That doesn't matter to science - but it's salient here because we're talking about the state o

  • In a world... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Solr_Flare (844465) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:53PM (#13783170)
    ...where so many gadgets and inventions appear daily that continue to make science fiction into science fact, it is hard to motivate the younger generations to pursue the sciences. Why make a career out of a subject where you may never see the results of your work with your own eyes, when other fields have tangeble results from their work?

    Other problems include:

    - poor pay
    - an increasing tendancy among scientists to take theory as fact
    - increased outsourcing by american business
    - unmotivated and/or knowledgable teachers(see poor pay as the reason for that)
    - Greater competition by other countries
    - The fanatical religious destruction of the scientific community.
  • Who cares (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:02PM (#13783251)
    The MBAs comming out of business school tell me that in the future, the US will just be managers "managing" all the stuff being done overseas - I should be an MBA too, or I'll be obsolete. If that's the stuff they're teaching our business leaders of the future we're just screwed...
    • Re:Who cares (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:28PM (#13783471)
      Just wait 'till the MBAs discover that there are MBA grads over in China willing to do THEIR job for one tenth the salary too!

      Face it, management can easily be outsourced. The only thing that can't be outsourced are service jobs. Want to be sure of having a job in the future? Become a teacher, pharmacist, plumber, doctor, lawyer, fireman, policeman, or any of the many other jobs that one can't telecommute to because they are required by the laws of physics to be in physical proximity to their clients.

      • There's nothing in the laws of physics requiring that lawbooks or the people who use them be located within the jurisdiction they apply to. Plenty of legal work is outsourced now -- how do you think all those bizarre patents get written up and filed? And more to come. Think about who administers your Workers' Compensation claims.

        A pharmacist in India could fill your prescription in Poughkippsie. A layer of telecom for reading the prescription, and running the machine that picks the pills off the shelf an
    • Re:Who cares (Score:3, Informative)

      by rand.srand() (243903)
      If you've ever tried to do business with anyone from outside of the US, and maybe Europe, I think you'll find that it is a major disparity between how well businesses run between the two regions. Business Science may be the last science that the US has an advantage on, because it sure isn't the rest of them.

      Other countries can compete for now on the basis of lower labor costs, and lower cost of environmental and other compliance. You can afford alot of waste and mismanagement in that stage, but when you're
  • by StefanJ (88986) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:06PM (#13783275) Homepage Journal
    (I submitted this to McSweeney's Internet Tendency. It got rejected, so you'all get to suffer:)

    Suggested Names for Bills Requiring Intelligent Design in Schools:

      Trofim's Law

      Global Laughingstock Initiative

      No Child Left Secular

      Equal Time for Unbelievable Bullshit Measure

      Last Nail in the Coffin for Public Education Act

      Irreducible Complexity Sophistry Initiative

      Created for Excellence and Metric Elimination Bill

      National Irrelevance Act
  • by rlp (11898) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:09PM (#13783303)
    Years and years ago I read a great article by this title. Consider, that their are a small but finite number of smart students who have the potential to become scientists and engineers. Consider that they are smart enough to look at what is happening in the US. American society rewards people who can a) entertain the masses, b) move money around from one place to another while extracting a portion for themselves, or c) extract money from others via the legal system. Scientists and engineers must spend years in expensive and difficult training to qualify for their fields. Spend many hours a year keeping up with their fields. Work very long hours. Risk unemployment from changing corporate or government priorities. And worry about their career disappearing when industry decides to outsource overseas. So scientist / engineer vs. athlete / entertainer / financier / lawyer. For many smart students it's a no-brainer.
  • bad in the long run (Score:3, Interesting)

    by idlake (850372) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:13PM (#13783324)
    Economically, this makes a lot of sense for the US. It's also a nice deal for the many budding scientists and engineers around the world.

    But one has to ask: if the US sucks up many of the smartest, most rational people in the world, how are nations like China, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan ever going to advance politically? They need an educated middle class, because it's the educated middle class, not the wealthy and not the blue collar workers, that drives nations towards democracy and freedom.

    The best thing the US can do to fight terrorism and totalitarian regimes in the world is to educate people from around the world and then send them back. Of course, realistically, that's not going to happen.
  • It's a non-problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:18PM (#13783367)
    Why train our own scientists when it is cheaper and quicker to simply hire away the best scientists from other countries? Saying we should spend more on training our own scientists is like saying the Yankees should invest in developing New York youth into world-class baseball players instead of simply paying top dollar for the best Cuban players! There are 6 billion people in the world and only 300 million in the US -- this means that 95% of the smartest people in the world aren't born in the US. Why should we pay to educate people when other countries are willing to educate them for us?
  • by Wansu (846) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @02:26PM (#13784059)


    This is being driven by labor costs. Technical workers in China and India work for a fraction of the pay of US technical workers. So the work is done there. Less manufacturing work and engineering work in the US means fewer technical workers are needed in the US.

    During the recession of the early 90s, US companies laid off employees by the thousands ever other week. During the past 5 years, US companies having been laying of employees by the tens of thousands. This means there are lots of unemployed and underemployed technical people. Prospective students see this and reconsider their field of study. Technical curricula are hard and required lots of work. The reward for obtaining an engineering degree has been dramatically reduced.

    Anything done to artificially stimulate the graduation rates of engineers will only add to the numbers of unemployed and underemployed engineers. Just because you graduate more engineers does not mean companies will spring up to employ them.
     
  • by constantnormal (512494) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @02:27PM (#13784074)
    On the one hand, they make a VERY strong case that US engineers are 5 to 10 times more expensive to employ than those where the jobs are going (India and China) ...

    And on the other hand, they advocate a massive program to train many more engineers and scientists than we already have, but to what end?

    If there is no neutralization of the cost of labor differentials between the United States and India/China, all of these newly created scientists and engineers will be unemployed. How is THAT going to help things?

    In theory, in the fullness of time, the third-world economies will expand and their costs of labor will rise, as ours is falling due to inability to compete. Somewhere in the middle things will meet, and we will be able to sustain a population of technical workers.

    But in the interim, I see nothing being proposed by the panel of "experts" to prevent careers in technical areas or the sciences from being stigmatized as "loser" careers, good routes to unemployment.

    Keynes said "But in the long run, we are all dead", meaning that one cannot only plan things based on a long term point of view. The short term must be also accommodated, else we'll never make it to the long term goal.

    Somebody needs to devise a plan that will preserve a national capability in the sciences, and will be not make our economy non-competitive in the process. It's certainly not going to be the Republicans, as they represent only the rich, with the rest of us as a resource to be plundered, and it's not going to be the Democrats, as they see business as a resource to be plundered.
  • by ENOENT (25325) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @03:03PM (#13784525) Homepage Journal
    Kayne West was so close.
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @03:24PM (#13784799) Journal
    Last year Reason had an interview [reason.com] with Neal Stephenson (author of Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, Quicksilver, and other fine novels), where he was asked about the state of science in America. What he said resonated with me quite a bit:

    The success of the U.S. has not come from one consistent cause, as far as I can make out. Instead the U.S. will find a way to succeed for a few decades based on one thing, then, when that peters out, move on to another. Sometimes there is trouble during the transitions. So, in the early-to-mid-19th century, it was all about expansion westward and a colossal growth in population. After the Civil War, it was about exploitation of the world's richest resource base: iron, steel, coal, the railways, and later oil.

    For much of the 20th century it was about science and technology. The heyday was the Second World War, when we had not just the Manhattan Project but also the Radiation Lab at MIT and a large cryptology industry all cooking along at the same time. The war led into the nuclear arms race and the space race, which led in turn to the revolution in electronics, computers, the Internet, etc. If the emblematic figures of earlier eras were the pioneer with his Kentucky rifle, or the Gilded Age plutocrat, then for the era from, say, 1940 to 2000 it was the engineer, the geek, the scientist. It's no coincidence that this era is also when science fiction has flourished, and in which the whole idea of the Future became current. After all, if you're living in a technocratic society, it seems perfectly reasonable to try to predict the future by extrapolating trends in science and engineering.

    It is quite obvious to me that the U.S. is turning away from all of this. It has been the case for quite a while that the cultural left distrusted geeks and their works; the depiction of technical sorts in popular culture has been overwhelmingly negative for at least a generation now. More recently, the cultural right has apparently decided that it doesn't care for some of what scientists have to say. So the technical class is caught in a pincer between these two wings of the so-called culture war. Of course the broad mass of people don't belong to one wing or the other. But science is all about diligence, hard sustained work over long stretches of time, sweating the details, and abstract thinking, none of which is really being fostered by mainstream culture.
  • by Rodong (906804) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @04:44PM (#13785686)
    It's not the race for profits causing this (or the so called bible thumpers) It's the race for short term profits, instant rewards.

    Capitalism has a slight case of ADHD, and companies are no longer worth more than the margin of profit you can rake home in between buying it and selling it. Whatever they produce is irrelevant, as are their workers.

    Thus, capitalism is killing itself, because it promotes short term goldfish-like behavior. Investors invest in a range of companies, out of which a certain % is doomed beforehand and the loss is regarded as natural.

    What does this mean in the long term? well for one thing it stiffles innovation, no incitaments for long term research, those who holds the whip and wrings results out of the peons (scientists and engineers) becomes far more important. In the long term brands are also becoming irrelevant, as the market moves faster and faster and no-one has a personal vested intrest in them they just dont have continuity or stability. Here one day, gone the next.

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