March 28, 2005
State of Basic Research Funding
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On March 16, 2005 the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) issued a press release warning that the coming transition to nano-scale semiconductor devices means that leadership in information technology is up for grabs. SIA called for stepped up support for basic research in the physical sciences to assure continued U.S. technology leadership. Experts believe current semiconductor technology could run up against physical, technological, and economic limits around 2020.
Craig Barrett, chief executive officer of Intel Corporation, commented that “U.S. leadership in the nanoelectronics era is not guaranteed. It will take a massive, coordinated U.S. research effort involving academia, industry, and state and federal governments to ensure that America continues to be the world leader in information technology.”
Steve Appleton, chief executive officer of Micron Technology and 2005 chairman of the SIA said “Federal funding for R&D as a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product has been almost cut in half over the past 20 years. We must return to the investment levels of the mid-1980s in order to compete for leadership.”
Specifically, SIA called for
Appelton added “U.S. leadership in technology is not inevitable. Leadership in information technology is a cornerstone of our national strategy for economic growth, an improving standard of living, and national security. The actions we take today to ensure continued U.S. leadership will determine the quality of life enjoyed by our children and grandchildren”.
The SIA is hardly alone in expressing concern over the state of education in science and engineering, the loss of jobs overseas and the amount of federal funding. For example, in a well publicized speech given to the Business Software Alliance in October 2003 Andy Grove bemoaned the lost of jobs in the software and service industry and predicted a fate similar to steel and semiconductors markets. He identified the decline in numbers of US science and engineering graduates, the poor performance of US students in science and math, the drop in federal funding of academic R&D, and IP litigation costs as contributing factors.
Are things really that bad?
US Higher Education
One measure of technical potential in the US is the number of Doctorates granted in relevant fields. The tables below come from the National Science Foundation Division of Science Resources Statistics and are based upon Survey of Earned Doctorates. Over 91 percent of the doctorate recipients in 2003 responded to the questionnaire. Over the period 1994-2003, the response rate varied between 91 and 95 percent.
Overall what is striking is the flatness of the data. The number of doctorates in Science and in All Fields has gone down modestly in a decade but the number of doctorates in Engineering has fallen nearly 10%.
If one examines the data on woman earning doctorates, one sees increases in percentage everywhere in 2003 relative to 1994. In the sciences woman earned 8,576 doctorates in 2004. This was 44% of the total. Of this number 30% were in biological sciences, 26% in psychology and 21% in social sciences. Woman accounted for only 17% of doctorates in engineering.
computer sciences has increased 2% since 1992, while graduate student on temporary visas studying physical sciences has increased 121%.
The percentage of bachelor degrees in science and engineering versus the total number of bachelor degrees has fallen 35.6% in 1970 to 31.8% in 2001. In absolute terms the number in science and engineering has grown from 284, 230 in 1970 to 400,206 in 2001. The percentage of master's degree in science and engineering versus the total number of bachelor degrees has fallen 25.6% in 1970 to 21.2% in 2001. In absolute terms the number in science and engineering has grown from 53,695 in 1970 to 98,986 in 2001.
Princeton-based Educational Testing Service, which conducts the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), recently declared that the number of international students registering for GRE in 2004 for admission in fall 2005 has dropped dramatically. The drop was 37% for Indians, 43% for Taiwanese and 50% for Chinese. The Council for Graduate Schools has found that applications from international students to US graduate schools for the September 2005 session are down for the second year in a row.
graduating. The percentages for males in these categories were even lower. More depressing is the fact that students who drop out of high school do so in their freshman and sophomore years.
Federal Funding of Scientific Research and Development
Technology). Governments also pass legislation in support of various applications of technology. For example, there are significant limits on the legal liability for the operation of a nuclear power without which there would not have been a nuclear power industry. Governments create and sustain infrastructures that support the advance and dissemination of technology in much the same way that they support the federal highway system. In recent times government funding is usually allocated to the areas of health, space, energy, national defense and now also homeland security.
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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.
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