National Academies Press: OpenBook

Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth? (2007)

Chapter: FRONT MATTER

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
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IS AMERICA FALLING OFF THE FLAT EARTH?

NORMAN R. AUGUSTINE

Chair,

Rising Above the Gathering Storm Committee

The views expressed are those of the author and do not represent an official policy statement of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, or the committee that developed Rising Above the Gathering Storm.

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES,

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING, AND INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Washington, D.C.
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001

Support for this project was provided by the National Academies. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.

Available from:

Laura Ahlberg

6801 Rockledge Drive Bethesda, MD 20817 Phone: 301-897-6186

Copyright 2007 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine


The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.


The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering.


The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.


The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.


www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
×

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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
×

PREFACE

Our institutions—the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine—are deeply concerned about the nation’s ability to compete during the 21st century. Prompted by a bipartisan request from Congress, we undertook a study that culminated in the report Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, released in late 2005.

We were subsequently encouraged as President George W. Bush introduced his American Competitiveness Initiative and as both the Senate and House passed bills based on ideas from the report and from others. At least one newspaper in every state of the Union had an editorial page item indicating the need for action on this issue. We held a major meeting with more than 1,000 participants from all 50 states—both in person and virtually—to discuss ideas for actions that could be initiated at the regional, state, and local levels. Yet, we still have a long way to go for our nation to be competitive in future decades, when our children and grandchildren will need jobs and desire a standard of living at least as good as today’s.

This essay, by Norman Augustine, the chair of the committee that developed the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, provides a timely update on the proposals raised in the report. As he has in speeches throughout the country, Norman Augustine continues to make the case that action is needed so that the United States remains competitive in the 21st century. Although the responsibility for the content of this essay rests with the author, we fully support the goals that he expresses in it.

In 2006, the National Academy of Sciences presented Mr. Augustine with its most prestigious award, the Public Welfare Medal, to honor his contributions to the vitality of

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
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science in the United States by bringing to industry and government a better understanding of the crucial role that fundamental scientific research must play in our long-term security and economic prosperity. Our entire nation—and its scientific and engineering enterprises in particular—owes an enormous debt to Norman Augustine. Acting on his strong personal conviction that sound national policy must embrace the very best in science and engineering, he has made a great difference in our nation’s life and welfare.


Ralph J. Cicerone

President

National Academy of Sciences


Charles M. Vest

President

National Academy of Engineering


Harvey V. Fineberg

President

Institute of Medicine

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The author is indebted to his colleagues on the National Academies Gathering Storm committee, its staff, and the many other individuals and groups whose work to strengthen America’s present and future competitiveness has been drawn on to produce this essay. He is also indebted to those who assisted in preparation of the manuscript, fact-checking, and editing.

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
×
Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
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Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
×
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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
×
Page R9
Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2007. Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12021.
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The aviation and telecommunication revolutions have conspired to make distance increasingly irrelevant. An important consequence of this is that US citizens, accustomed to competing with their neighbors for jobs, now must compete with candidates from all around the world. These candidates are numerous, highly motivated, increasingly well educated, and willing to work for a fraction of the compensation traditionally expected by US workers.

If the United States is to offset the latter disadvantage and provide its citizens with the opportunity for high-quality jobs, it will require the nation to excel at innovation—that is, to be first to market new products and services based on new knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge. This capacity to discover, create and market will continue to be heavily dependent on the nation's prowess in science and technology.

Indicators of trends in these fields are, at best, highly disconcerting. While many factors warrant urgent attention, the two most critical are these: (1) America must repair its failing K-12 educational system, particularly in mathematics and science, in part by providing more teachers qualified to teach those subjects, and (2) the federal government must markedly increase its investment in basic research, that is, in the creation of new knowledge.

Only by providing leading-edge human capital and knowledge capital can America continue to maintain a high standard of living—including providing national security—for its citizens.

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