The U.S. – European Summit on Science, Technology, Innovation, and Sustainable Economic Growth

On September 28th, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and Oakridge National Laboratories organized a two-day summit to explore this issue in depth.  Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the European Commission, the event brought together academic leaders, policy makers, scientists, and economists to discuss the impacts of investments in science and technology on the American and European economies.

“Sustainable economic growth and the role that science and technology will play in it….is a question that we will be of commanding importance for the rest of the 21st century.”  Paraphrasing a comment by Lee Hamilton, Wilson Center President and Director, Kent Hughes, Director of the Program on America and the Global Economy, opened the U.S. – European Summit on Science, Technology, Innovation, and Sustainable Economic Growth. Read more of this post

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Breaking the STEM Gender Gap

The National Science Foundation has estimated that roughly five percent of the workforce is engaged in STEM related jobs, a relatively small vital sector in our economy.  Historically, these fields have been dominated by men.  The gap however, is rapidly closing.

Almost thirty years ago, there was a 13:1 boy to girl ratio for gifted 12-14 year olds who scored 700 on the SAT math exam, today it is closer to 3:1.  This is one of the many examples that a recent study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) entitled “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” demonstrates.

With women obtaining only 20 percent of the STEM related degrees issued, the study shows that early education must support and continually encourage girls in math and science.  The study argues that, “[…] believing in the potential for intellectual growth, in and of itself, improves outcomes,” specifically in the early stages of cognitive development.  Improvements in education and tackling social taboos have seen high school females surpassing their male peers in both science and technology grade point averages.

The STEM workforce is also changing, but disparities continue. For example, while women represent about 53 percent of biologists, only 10 percent of civil engineers are women.  In response, colleges have changed course descriptions and the number of female faculty members has increased, as have tenure levels.

Independent groups are helping to empower females and to break barriers as well.  The HerWorld program, which has teamed with DeVry University, runs a forum to encourage girls to explore STEM careers.  As of now, over 7,200 high school girls in over fifty locations take part in the career development seminar and activities in the hopes of “opening the door to exciting STEM career opportunities that they may never have imagined possible.”

Posted by: Michael Darden

Sources: AAUW, Cognitive Daily, Devry, SentinelSource

Photo Credit: math problems for girls Courtesy of flickr user woodleywonderworks

National Science Foundation Study Finds Varying Degree of Innovation

The National Science Foundation has released a preliminary report entitled “2008 Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS),” measuring the level of innovation across different industries  in the United States from 2006-2008.  The report received data from 1.5 million for-profit public and private companies. The study found that nine percent of the companies were active product innovators, but the data showed significant differences between industries.

Within the manufacturing industry, 22 percent responded that they had introduced innovations composed of “one or more new or significantly improved goods or services,” compared to only eight percent outside the manufacturing industry.  The computer/electronics subsector produced the highest marks, with some companies reporting 45 percent product innovation.  The non-manufacturing sector also showed a very wide range.  For example, software publishers produced a high rate of innovation, 77 percent, and health care services produced only ten percent.

However, the report did show one strong positive correlation between research and development (R&D) and innovation.  Around three percent of the respondents invested in,  and funded R&D and reported high levels of innovation.  Companies investing $50-$100 million per year reported an increase of 76 percent in new or upgraded products while those spending over $100 million per year reported a high of 81 percent.  In a striking comparison, the remaining 97 percent of companies that failed to invest in R&D showed poor innovation performance.  The report was the first of its kind and shows a large disparity within industries, but has the potential to provide a framework for innovation industry by industry.

Posted by: Michael Darden

Sources: National Science Foundation

Photo credit: Dome of the Reichstag building by night courtesy of flick user alles-schlumpf

America Keeps on Competing

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation has reauthorized the America COMPETES Act of 2010, which, “is a critical link in maintaining U.S. dominance in innovation and R&D funding,” Brian Darmody, Association of University Research Parks (AURP) President told Newswise.  While the bill did not reach final passage in the Senate before the August recess, it does have “meaningful private sector support, with the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable each throwing their weight behind the measure,” according to The Hill.

“Research parks and regional innovation clusters, which are so important to job creation and growth, are also included in the legislation,” according to Newswise.  The Act will also bolster STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education by providing for increased research funding for the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology and funding of grants at the high school, undergraduate, and graduate levels.

Posted by: Monica Schager

Sources: Newswise, The Hill, The Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation

Photo Credit: U.S. Capitol No. 6141, courtesy of flickr user Eric E. Johnson