AAAS S&T Policy Forum To Explore American Workforce Challenges
America has remained at the forefront of science for decades, but the strategies that helped it in the past may soon be insufficient, according to a leading specialist on education and employment who will speak at the 30th annual AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy this week.
Anthony P. Carnevale, a senior fellow at the National Center on Education and the Economy in Washington, said the United States will face a shortage of science and technology workers as baby boomers retire. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics also has projected a general shortage in the number of workers in America with bachelor's degrees and advanced degrees, said Carnevale.
The U.S. has done well in science and technology "largely because of our flexible use of the domestic workforce and the foreign workforce and because of the size of the American economy," Carnevale said in an interview. "In the future, there are a number of reasons to believe that strategy will no longer suffice."
India, China and other nations, with increasing demands for science and technology workers, will compete for the available supply of talent, Carnevale said. Alternate U.S. strategies, including slowing the retirement of baby boomers, more emphasis on skill-based immigration and more use of H1-B visas (which allow companies to employ foreign individuals for up to six years) will not provide a long-term solution, he said. "We will have to grow more of our own S&T workforce," Carnevale said.
Since 1975, the United States has fallen from third to seventeenth compared to other countries in the proportion of those between 18 and 24 who earn science and engineering degrees, according to Daryl Chubin, head of the AAAS's Center for Advancing Science and Engineering Capacity.
U.S. students also continue to lag behind their international peers in standardized tests of science and mathematics. Such trends are an early warning of economic problems to come, specialists say, since performance on math and science tests relate directly to labor-force quality and also are related to national economic growth rates.
Chubin will moderate a session on systemic S&T workforce issues at the AAAS Forum. The annual forum has become the premier venue for discussion of current issues in science and technology policy. About 500 participants are expected at the event to be held Thursday and Friday at the Loews L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington.
John H. Marburger III, the White House science adviser, will open the forum with a keynote address on Thursday at 9:15 a.m. The opening plenary session will discuss the budget and policy context for proposed research and development spending in the FY 2006 federal budget. Speakers at that session will include David Walker, head of the Government Accountability Office, and Robert Klein, board chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Arden L. Bement Jr., the director of the National Science Foundation, will be the luncheon speaker on Thursday.
In addition to Carnevale, speakers at the session on the S & T workforce will include William O. Berry, acting deputy under secretary of Defense for laboratories and basic science; Joan Robinson-Berry, director of external affiliations for the Boeing Co.; Norine Noonan, dean of the school of science and mathematics at the College of Charleston; and Shirley Malcom, director of the AAAS Education and Human Resources program.
For America to meet its needs for world-class talent in science, Chubin said, "higher education must develop an emerging U.S. talent pool that looks very different from decades past." There must be more attention to women and under-represented minorities, he said, as well as non-traditional students who come to science by other paths than a four-year college program immediately after high school.
During the forum, AAAS and the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology will release the executive summary of a report on preparing women and minorities for the information technology (IT) workforce. The report finds that funding agencies and universities must do more to meet the needs of non-traditional students with an interest in computer science and information technology. While faculty members hold generally positive views of nontraditional students, the report finds, views of female students are more mixed, and faculty have a decidedly negative opinion of under-represented minorities.
The AAAS forum also will feature sessions on the future of scientific communication; science and global health disasters; and the role of R&D in the U.S. and global economies. The closing plenary session on Friday afternoon will discuss issues such as evolution and embryonic stem cells where the interests of science clash with some segments of public opinion.
20 April 2005