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AAAS Applauds Wisconsin's Efforts to "Meet the Innovation Challenge"
MILWAUKEE, Wis.—AAAS, the world's largest general scientific organization and publisher of the journal Science, today commended Wisconsin's efforts to diversify its traditional economic strengths in manufacturing and farming by further expanding the science and technology workforce.
"Wisconsin and neighboring Midwestern states are proactively encouraging young scientists to move beyond the laboratory, so that their technical skills can help to promote innovation in the business, education, communications, and public policy sectors, too," said AAAS/Science careers expert Garth Fowler.
"Recruiting more highly trained research scientists into traditional economic sectors is a key to enhancing competitiveness," said Fowler, who heads outreach for ScienceCareers.org, a service of AAAS. "At the same time, it's critical to draw non-traditional students into science and technology careers because they may represent an untapped talent pool."
Wisconsin is approaching the innovation challenge from both directions, said Fowler, who will serve as the plenary presenter today during a regional event, co-organized by the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, titled "Putting Your Ph.D. to Work: A Career Symposium for Scientists." The full-day symposium, open to any graduate student or postdoctoral researcher at a medical college, is intended to enhance project management, leadership, and self-marketing skills.
Fowler is part of a broad effort by AAAS to provide "cradle-to-grave" support for science and technology job seekers and employers.
Shirley Malcom, director of Education and Human Resources at AAAS, also applauded efforts by economic development leaders in Wisconsin. In particular, she cited the new M2 Collaborative, which is seeking a stronger partnership between Milwaukee and the state capital of Madison to increase research funding, as "an important step toward strengthening Wisconsin's science and technology infrastructure."
According to the 2006 National Science Foundation Science and Engineering Indicators report, individuals in science and engineering occupations accounted for 3.22 percent Wisconsin's overall workforce in 2003, versus 1.9 percent in 1999. Such progress is impressive and essential since science and technology jobs are increasingly important to the nation's ability to help solve world problems, said Malcom, co-chair of the National Science Board's ambitious new Commission on 21st Century Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
But, she added, women and ethnic and minority students have traditionally been underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, although they now account for more than half of the nation's population. As the U.S. population has grown to 300 million, the minority population has increased 35 percent over the past decade, versus a 3.4-percent growth of the non-Hispanic white population. Some ethnic sectors have increased even more dramatically.
Despite such major changes in the demographics of the general U.S. population, Malcom added: "The science, technology, engineering, and mathematics workforce nationwide remains nearly 82 percent white, and more than three-fourths male. As increasing numbers of these professionals approach retirement age, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and past AAAS president, has predicted that we face a competitive crisis unless we make better use of the whole spectrum of potential talent in this country."
While outstanding U.S. universities currently attract two-thirds of the international students who study abroad, Malcom said, those same institutions are not succeeding in bringing untapped groups of American-born students into STEM fields. Among STEM-related doctorates awarded in 2004, she noted, only 746 went to underrepresented minorities—African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans—or, just 2.8 percent of the total. A persistent gender imbalance in science and engineering continues to be a problem, too. Another career expert at AAAS, Daryl Chubin, director of the AAAS Center for Advancing Science & Engineering Capacity, noted that five out of six engineering students and nine out of 10 engineering professors are male.
Fowler, who interacts with thousands of early-career scientists and engineers each year, said women, minority, and ethnic students may feel more timid about job searching, networking, and interviewing. "They may be more likely to seek out career support, and so it's encouraging that institutions like the Medical College of Wisconsin are actively trying to provide those services."
ScienceCareers.org is believed to be the single most comprehensive, freely accessible source of online science and technology career support in the world, serving scientists, engineers, and others at every level. It is part of a broad array of career services and information—from how-to seminars to professional internships—intended to assist students at all levels, early-career professionals, job-seekers, employers, educators, policy-makers, and others seeking to enhance the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics workforce worldwide. The AAAS Center for Careers in Science and Technology offers broad support for early-career scientists and engineers, and works in tandem with the AAAS Center for Advancing Science and Engineering Capacity, which provides fee-based recruitment and retention support to institutions of higher education.
27 October 2006