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Posted: January 28, 2008
Brain Drain: America needs more money for science
(Nanowerk News) Increased funding, training students and teachers in science, math and related fields, and attracting high-skilled immigrants should be the key mantras for America to maintain its competitive edge in a global world, scientists and industry leaders say.
"We still do okay because we still have one of the largest research systems in the world...one of the finest higher education systems," said Junhyong Kim, co-director of the Penn Genomics Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.
"Yet, competitive edge in science and technology is becoming more important than ever, especially having a sufficient pool of trained personnel."
In a historic move last year, companies joined hands with scientists and universities to push legislation that ensures America's stature as the most innovative nation in the world.
Two steps are critical for America to remain competitive, Microsoft chief Bill Gates said at a congressional hearing last year. Improve U.S. schools, he said, and make it easier for foreign-born scientists and engineers to work here.
The so-called American Competitiveness Initiative was pushed by more than 30 companies and associations from IBM, Intel and Google to the American Chemical Society and American Institute of Physics. The initiative called for doubling funding for basic research programs in physical sciences to encourage scientists into exploring areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources. The law, signed in August, seeks to encourage improved math instruction and authorizes an advanced placement/international baccalaureate program by training more high school teachers to teach math, science, and critical foreign languages courses in high-need schools.
The law ignited a sense of enthusiasm in the scientific community, but it was short lived. Budget cuts failed to fund the proposal.
"Federal funding is the cornerstone for basic research," said Wayne Phillips vice president of research at University of Florida. "With the way it's going, the 2008 scenario doesn't look good."
Vivek Wadhwa, a tech entrepreneur and Wertheim Fellow at the Harvard Law School and executive in residence at Duke University, thinks the government should focus more on commercializing what happens at university labs.
"The challenge is to make the research system more effective and get more out of it," Wadhwa said.