[Published originally in the March 2006 edition of Computing Research News, Vol. 18/No. 2]
Musings from the Chair
The Future of American Innovation: The Gathering Storm
By Dan Reed, CRA Board Chair
In response to a Congressional request and stimulated by a set of earlier studies (notably the National Innovation Initiative’s “Innovate America” report), the National Academies recently issued a report entitled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Future.” This report was produced in response to growing concern that a weakening of U.S. leadership (and, by extension, North American leadership) in science and technology would jeopardize future prosperity. This concern was based on the fact that a major fraction of economic growth in recent decades has been a direct consequence of prior investment in basic research. The report committee was asked to address two questions:
Based on interviews, review of other documents and reports, and deliberations, the committee produced four recommendations, each backed by a more detailed set of implementation plans:
Although one may debate the recommendation details, there is little doubt that global competition is rising and that the competitive pressures are real. Many of us live in regions whose traditional economic base has been reshaped by global trade. In computing, we have seen shifting trends in graduate student enrollment, flat to only slightly rising research budgets, and declining proposal success rates for research funding.
In his January 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush announced the American Competitiveness Initiative, which would increase the number of trained secondary-school teachers in advanced mathematics and science. He also called for a doubling of federal investment in basic research in the physical sciences, which includes information technology. Bipartisan bills have also been introduced in the U.S. Congress to increase investment in education and research.
As part of a group of professional societies, industry-academic partnerships and universities, CRA is working to support increased funding for long-term basic research, greater investment in scientific education, and mechanisms to broaden the base of participation in information technology. I encourage you to follow these activities on the CRA blog (www.cra.org/govaffairs/blog). Get involved—talk to your colleagues, raise awareness, and make a difference! In a knowledge economy, a trained workforce and basic research are the enablers.
Dan Reed, CRA’s Board Chair, is the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor and Vice-Chancellor for Information Technology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also directs the interdisciplinary Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI).
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