Published 08/06/12

Training the future R&D workforce

cover of NSB research reportRecent trends in the U.S. government's capacity to educate and train the future R&D workforce are cause for concern, according to Vice President for Academic Affairs José-Marie Griffiths.

Griffiths was among the scientists and scholars behind "Research and Development, Innovation, and the Science and Engineering Workforce," a new report from the National Science Board, the governing body of the National Science Foundation. The report was released July 16.

"Our nation's economic growth depends on our capacity to educate, innovate and build," the report states. But between 2008 and 2009, in the midst of the most recent recession, American businesses cut funding for research and development by nearly 5 percent, or $12 billion. The science board said these cuts coupled with government budget constraints at all levels are reasons for concern.

"Human resources are key," said Griffiths. "Today, the United States finds itself in a long-distance race to sustain its essential global advantage in science and engineering (S&E) human resources and our leadership in science and technology, even as attractive and competitive alternatives for education and jobs are increasing around the world for S&E talent."

"The federal and state governments play a leading role in training the next generation of scientists. Universities attract foreign talent and they conduct critical basic and applied research. Federal immigration and visa policies have a direct impact on our ability to attract and retain the type of science and engineering talent we need for economic growth here," said Griffiths, who just completed a six-year term as a member of the National Science Board.

"R&D-based innovation has long been a pillar of the U.S. economy, contributing importantly to the nation's wealth, employment, security, and general quality of life," the report said. "With growing international competition in high-technology industries, the need for continued and enhanced public efforts to strengthen national R&D is clear."

A copy of the report is available as a .pdf from the National Science Board. A press release about the report is here.