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SUMMARY OF MAJOR FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 1 Summary of Major Findings and Recommendations The world in which U.S. engineers and technologists learn and practice their profession is changing more rapidly than the institutions, policies, and programs intended to ensure our future economic growth, security, and welfare. The United States and especially its engineering and science community need to adopt new attitudes and strategies if we are to maintain or enhance our industrial health and standard of living in the face of the reality of intense international economic competition. Responses must be political, economic, and cultural, as well as technological. Although improvements in the competitive status of the United States will not come about solely as a result of our being more aware of technological progress made outside the United States, technological isolation will surely undermine the future of our industries and educational institutions. The benefits of international cooperation in engineering and technology are likely to outweigh risks in many situations, given thoughtful and symmetrical implementation of programs. Technological protectionism is not a sustainable path as a general course, since technology inevitably diffuses. A better approach for the United States is to ensure that the internal rate of creation and application of knowledge is always substantially greater than its rate of transfer, and that the rate of acquisition and dissemination of relevant information from abroad is significantly amplified over what it is today. Programs in the United States must be modified to respond positively and beneficially to the growing quality and quantity of engineering activity abroad, and especially to the emergence of foreign centers of excellence. The National Science Foundation (NSF) can and should
SUMMARY OF MAJOR FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 2 play a significant role in advancing international cooperation in engineering. Today, however, resources applied by the entire NSF to advance such cooperation probably are not more than about $2 million, or about 1 percent of the Engineering Directorate budget. This is insufficient. Better focused and improved U.S. efforts are needed for â¢ Promoting international cooperation in engineering research; â¢ Making U.S. engineering education more responsive to worldwide progress and concerns; â¢ Gathering, disseminating, and assimilating information from abroad; and â¢ Supporting international organizations and standards. Besides addressing recommendations to NSF and other federal agencies, the committee's deliberations have led to specific recommendations for academia, engineering professional societies, and the National Academy of Engineering. The committee's principal recommendations are as follows: 1. NSF should declare its recognition of the importance of international collaboration in engineering research and education, and support this view by significantly increasing its level of funding for U.S. participation in cooperative international endeavors. Specifically, NSF should augment the international capabilities and responsibilities of existing U.S. university-industry centers of excellence in engineering research, such as the Engineering Research Centers, and ensure that its sponsored researchers are demonstrably aware of engineering knowledge generated abroad. [pp.10-11, 16-20, 31-32] 2. NSF should develop a consortium of funding agencies to support a program of fellowships enabling each year 100 to 200 U.S. citizens receiving doctorates in engineering to spend a year or more abroad at centers of excellence in engineering in the Pacific Rim nations, especially Japan, and in Western Europe. It should also encourage and help sponsor engineering faculty members, Presidential Young Investigators, and outstanding industrial researchers to take sabbatical at centers of engineering excellence abroad. [pp.16, 26-27] 3. NSF, NAE, and other organizations should organize and fund lecture tours by distinguished foreign experts to present reviews of, and perspectives on, their nations' developments in engineering and technology to U.S. universities and industry. [p.31]
SUMMARY OF MAJOR FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 3 4. NSF and other concerned agencies should identify the potential benefits from more assertive and better coordinated U.S. participation in international standards development and in international engineering organizations. [pp.40-43] 5. NSF should assess the adequacy of federal efforts to gather technical information worldwide, analyze its trends, and effectively disseminate insight into engineering advances overseas to government agencies, private companies, and universities. (Now mandated by Executive Order 12591, dated 10 April 1987). Also, it should evaluate the merits of establishing on-campus international technology assessment centers (ITACs) at existing academic centers of engineering excellence. [pp.31-34] 6. Major U.S. engineering schools should establish and publicize a capability for providing information on international engineering programs, and for promoting an awareness of the international nature of technology. [p.27-28] 7. Universities should expand opportunities for engineering students to study abroad through the pairing of U.S. schools with comparable institutions abroad, and also should encourage the development of cooperative efforts between engineering schools and other campus units expert in international economic and cultural affairs. [pp.25, 27] 8. Educational institutions should respond to the urgent need for increased capability in Asian languages and culture for U.S. engineers and technologists. Graduate degree programs in engineering and applied sciences should emphasize the need for spoken and technical competency in at least one foreign language. [pp.21-24] 9. U.S.-based engineering professional societies should continue to develop their international activities for the benefit of both the U.S. and international engineering and technology enterprise. [pp.30-31] 10. U.S. firms should develop effective strategies for connecting to engineering progress abroad, and ensure that senior management is attentive to the need for the inflow of information from abroad. [pp.16-17, 35-37] In short, the committee believes that the time has come for the United States to revitalize and refocus its activities related to international cooperation in engineering. Establishing a more coherent and effective set of mechanisms for connecting to engineering progress abroad will be critically important for the enduring vitality of U.S. academia and industry.