Science Panel Warns of Far Too Few New Scientists

article about the US losing its lead in some sciences on Monday. Now the Congressional National Science Board says we’re not pumping out nearly enough scientists to keep our economic and technical lead. Not exactly news, but discouraging just the same. Well, maybe this matter will get some public attention. People tend to listen-up when the economy is involved.

The United States faces a major shortage of scientists because too few Americans are entering technical fields and because international competition is heating up for bright foreigners who once filled the gap, a federal panel warned Tuesday.

For many years we have benefited from minimal competition in the global science and engineering labor market,” he said. “But attractive and competitive alternatives are now expanding around the world.”

…interest in such careers is falling compared with elsewhere. The 2004 report on indicators says the United States ranks 17th among nations surveyed in the share of its 18-to-24-year-olds who earn natural science and engineering degrees, behind Taiwan and South Korea, Ireland and Italy. In 1975, it was third.

Skilled foreigners have increasingly filled the gap: the board report shows that 38 percent of all the nation’s scientists and engineers with doctorates are now foreign born.

But that inward flow is threatened, the board said, because of new limits on the entry of highly educated foreigners into the country and more intense global competition for their skills. Visas granted to students, exchange visitors and highly skilled foreigners dropped from 787,000 in 2001 to 625,000 last year. Visa applications have dropped as well.