In January of this year the National Science Board, which is part of the National Science Foundation, published its biennial report on Science and Engineering Indicators. It captures how the United States compares to other countries from the perspective of degree production, investments in research and development, and scientific articles and patents (as a proxy for technical prowess). Basically, we’re falling behind on every major measure, which means we may not have enough trained people and core competencies to combat climate change, defeat contagious viruses or compete in the growing market for advanced energy systems.
This is a dangerous signal.
Not only have we closed the borders (even to students) and raised the walls (literally and figuratively) to shared knowledge, we have diluted educational achievement standards at home and outsourced our critical manufacturing capabilities overseas. Turning the tide will require new educational policy, targeted federal funding and visionary executive leadership. Investment in science reveals verifiable facts that we use to live longer, happier, more-affordable lives. It also leads to products and services that we can sell in foreign markets. The only “alternative fact” that matters is that China is eager to assume any mantle we abandon or neglect.
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