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THE CHANGING WORLD OF ENGINEERING PRACTICE 4 1 The Changing World of Engineering Practice 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. This is a time of fundamental shifts in dominant technologies, employment patterns, and world economic structure. These shifts are evident in the following areas: Diminishing U.S. leadership in world markets. The U.S. balance of trade in merchandise has been consistently and increasingly negative since 1976, falling below $165 billion in 1986. Even high technology imports have exceeded exports in 1986. Total U.S. share of world exports of manufactured goods decreased from 23 percent in 1957 to 14 percent in 1983.1 The standard of living of the U.S. work force in many sectors is under pressure because of competition caused by foreign imports. Growing technological strength in other countries. Many nations have developed centers of technological excellence, and the quantity of inventive activity outside the United States continues to grow in absolute and proportional terms. Sixty-two percent of all research publications in engineering and technology now originate outside the United States, compared to 58 percent 10 years ago.2 Newly industrializing areas such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Brazil are attaining higher levels of competence for technical development as well as production. Japan, already a leader in world industry, continues on an extremely dynamic course in engineering and technology. Japan's share of the world's publications in engineering and technology has increased from about 5 percent in 1973 to 8 percent in 1986, and citations to Japanese articles in engineering and technology have doubled in the same period. The total number of research publications by Japanese engineers and scientists surpassed the output of French and West German researchers
THE CHANGING WORLD OF ENGINEERING PRACTICE 5 in the 1970s, and the USSR in the early 1980s. When data for the mid-1980s become available, they will probably show the number of Japanese technical publications has surpassed the British total and is second only to that of the United States.3 ,4 The increasing globalization of world markets and technologies. Markets are becoming international for everything from space transportation to bicycles and from chemicals to engineering services. Materials and communications technologies are increasingly global in application. Information flows worldwide almost instantly and is increasingly difficult to contain even when restrictions are employed by governmental or industrial organizations.5 ,6 Software and biotechnology, terms scarcely known a generation ago, are emerging as key fields of engineering with vast potential for application in both industrialized and developing countries. About one-fifth of the U.S. labor force works in connection with international trade. A new level of international collaboration on technological issues. Cooperative international technology projects among nations, especially in Western Europe, are becoming more common,7 ,8 and other nations are taking innovative steps to benefit from technology development worldwide. For example, the West German National Center for Computer Science is building its International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, to increase collaboration between German reserchers and their U.S. colleagues. In addition, such global issues as the environmental impact of energy production have moved from the realm of future concerns to present-day problems. The increasingly international outlook of major corporations. Corporations from many countries are now becoming multinational in their operations. Foreign sourcing of components and subsystems for U.S. products has increased substantially over the past decade. Increased foreign investment in the United States means that more U.S. engineers and technologists are working for non-U.S. owned firms. In 1985 about 70,000 U.S. workers were employed in Japanese-owned U.S. manufacturing facilities. At the same time, some U.S. firms are reducing foreign operations. New recognition of the need for career-long education of engineers. Rapid technological change and the emergence of expert systems and engineering work stations capable of carrying out traditional engineering tasks will require the âreeducationâ of engineers several times during a typical 40-year career. The members of this committee concur in the recent findings of other study groups9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17 and 18 that 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 our standard of living in the face of the reality of intense international economic competition. The United States is not responding quickly enough to meet the challenge of the globalization of technology, in part, because of the cultural, organizational, political, and economic barriers that are the residual effects of attitudes and policies developed for other times and purposes and are
THE CHANGING WORLD OF ENGINEERING PRACTICE 6 inappropriate today. The following practices and attitudes are examples of current barriers to more advantageous participation for U.S. engineers in worldwide technological progress and concerns. Avoidance of participation in world markets. Because of its size and sophistication, the U.S. domestic market is the preferred marketâsometimes the sole marketâfor many U.S. companies. Many corporate marketing strategies are not sufficiently productive toward international markets, or even international competitors in domestic markets, though this is changing. Lack of knowledge of foreign languages and culture in U.S. engineering graduates. Nowadays, the educational background of American-born engineers rarely includes exposure to other cultures (see Table 1), and foreign-language skills are minimal. Young engineers do not see study abroad as an enhancement of their future careers, and this perspective may be reinforced by industry and academic practice. Current engineering graduates see little incentive to pass up attractive offers of employment in the United States and work instead in an overseas engineering community for any significant period of time. Reluctance or inability of U.S. firms to take advantage of technical information generated elsewhere. A long-term perspective is usually required to benefit from cooperation with foreign institutions, and many organizations are not willing to take such a view and make the necessary up-front investment. U.S. industrial success earlier in this century has led to an attitude of superiority and a prejudice against the need to learn what the rest of the world is doing. There is a reluctance to recognize that the immediate post-World War II period of U.S. economic dominance has come to an end. A bias against using what is ânot invented hereâ is embedded in many organizational cultures; many are disinclined to look outside established networks for knowledge and partners. Foreign travel is viewed intrinsically as a waste of time and money by some company and university administrators. Small companies lack the resources to use some of the mechanisms used by big companies for accessing technical information from abroadâfor example, overseas branches, listening posts, joint ventures. Governmental restraints. Significant governmental restraints on international cooperation in engineering arise out of national concerns with regard to fair trade policy, and military and job security. However, protectionist policies can result in loss of access to foreign sources of technology. The effects of defense-related barriers on the commercial sector are increasingly clear.6 Policies legitimately intended to control exports of technologies that may have both military and commercial applications, for example, have already markedly restricted areas for U.S. cooperation, even with long-term allies. Government trade protectionâespecially apparent in Pacific Rim countries and Western Europeâis becoming a barrier to the exchange of technical information. For example, domestic content requirements in foreign countries restrict U.S. manufacturers from full participation in technical activities in several countries. Foreign-government funded technology may be closed
THE CHANGING WORLD OF ENGINEERING PRACTICE 7 TABLE 1 Who Is Learning About Whom? a) Asian Students in California (1984) California Students Studying Asian Cultures (1984) 2,900 nonresident students from Asian countries University of California system: 60 undergraduates in Asian studies 55 graduates in Asian studies 130 majors in Asian languages 40 students in Education Abroad program in four Asian cities 285 Total Source: California and the 21st Century: Foundations for a Competitive Society. 1986. Vol. I. Report of the Senate Select Committee on Long-range Planning. Sacramento, Calif., p. 100. b) Japanese Studying in American Universities (1984-1985) Americans Studying in Japanese Universities (1984-1985) 13,160 730 Sources: Look Japan, Vol. 32, No. 370, January 1987, p. 8.; Institute for International Education, Open Doors, 1984/1985, New York. c) Percentage Distribution of People's Republic of China F-1 Percentage Distribution of American Graduate Students and Visa Holders by Intended Field of Study in the United Faculty in All Fields Who Conducted or Planned to States, 1983 Conduct One Month or More of Research in the People's Republic of China, by Field, 1978-1979 Through 1983-1984 Intended Field of Study in F-1 Visa Holders Field of Study Percent U.S. Business management 9 Business management 2 Computer science 13 Computer and information 2 sciences Engineering 23* Engineering 7** Life sciences 5 Life Sciences 3 Mathematics 5 Mathematics 3 Physical sciences 14 Physical Sciences 4 Other 31 Other 79 Total 100 Total 100 N (Total number of scholars)=(911) N= (392) * 209 people ** 27 people Source: National Research Council. 1986. A Relationship Restored: Trends in U.S.-China Educational Exchanges, 1978-1984. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press.
THE CHANGING WORLD OF ENGINEERING PRACTICE 8 to U.S. industry, and U.S. Department of Defense funded technology often cannot be exploited in foreign markets. Conversely, most nondefense U.S. government-funded science and technology is open to the world, work at the National Institutes of Health and U.S. universities being good examples. Absence of policy and organizational development. Lack of cooperation and coordination among industry, universities, and government, and of coherent national science or technology policy, can pose problems within the United States. Moreover, international nongovernmental organizations whose purpose is to promote international cooperation in engineering are not strong and, for most countries, neither are the national organizations supporting them. Differences in standards and intellectual property protection procedures between countries can also be obstacles. Finally, cultural and organizational barriers within foreign countries often make international cooperation difficult. The committee agrees with the findings of other studies9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17 and 18 that a variety of approaches will be needed to increase U.S. competitiveness. As will be evident from the barriers identified above, responses must be political, economic, and cultural, as well as technological. To a great extent the challenges faced are the result of shortcomings within the United States in implementing both familiar and new technologies in products to bring about steady improvements. Difficulties stem from a variety of circumstances, including the macroeconomic and regulatory environment; labor and management vision, commitment to quality, and productivity; short-term financial requirements; and increasingly noncompetitive capabilities in manufacturing practice. Numerous suggestions have been made to help the United States become more technologically competitive. These include education and training of a more technically proficient and flexible work force, including management; improved on-the-job training and career-long education; more consistent, long-term approaches to research and development; more effective identification of national technology priorities; stronger nationwide emphasis on manufacturing; and improved transfer of technology from university and government programs to industrial application. In addition, the more systematic acquisition and prompt application of technology generated elsewhere have been recommended, together with the development of engineers and technologists in tune with the notion that both the sources and markets for technology are global. In short, it is evident that 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. Indeed, recognizing that technology development is increasingly expensive, and that no nation has a monopoly on talent, the committee believes that, with due regard for national security issues, there is real merit to international cooperative research and technology development, as well as educational and information exchange. The advantages include
THE CHANGING WORLD OF ENGINEERING PRACTICE 9 â¢ increased leverage of investments and reduction in development costs; â¢ reduction in likelihood of being surprised by competitors; â¢ facilitated entry into foreign markets by means of working partnerships with âinsideâ organizations; â¢ facilitated entry into markets through harmonized standards; â¢ increased chances for innovation through cross-pollination of approaches; and â¢ improved internal organizational performance through increased challenges and aspirations stimulated through broader vision and contact. The committee by no means recommends international cooperative approaches for all research and development tasks. Consideration must be given to symmetrical or equitable exchange, and realistic recognition must also be accorded to some of the drawbacks of cooperation, especially the increased short-term costs, leakage of proprietary and militarily valuable information, and increased complexity of operations. Nevertheless, the judgment of the committee is that (i) given thoughtful implementation, the benefits of international cooperation in engineering and technology are likely to outweigh risks in many situations and that (ii) 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 (i) the internal rate of creation and application of knowledge is always substantially greater than its rate of transfer and that (ii) the rate of acquisition and dissemination of relevant information from abroad is significantly amplified over what it is today. In engineering terms, the committee urges emphasis on opening the input valves rather than closing the output valves. The committee believes there are solutions to the problems for technological cooperation, problems arising from differences in culture and language, national and economic security, availability of resources, and the state of development of potential partners. Among the concerns the committee encountered was the increasing perception that for national security reasons, the United States restricts, and in some cases withholds, information and technology from traditional or prospective partners. Several of our colleagues abroad mentioned actions such as the closing of U.S. conferences to foreign nationals, screening unclassified papers at U.S. conferences, and trade restrictions on exports of instrumentation and computers to be used for research. Concern was voiced not only about specific actions, but also about their apparent inconsistency from a policy viewpoint. At the heart of these matters are the recent shifts in U.S. policies relating scientific communication, technology transfer, and exports controls to national security. Achieving a proper balance between the goals of an open society and the needs for both economic and military security is a continuing challenge. The Academy complex has recently addressed some
THE CHANGING WORLD OF ENGINEERING PRACTICE 10 of the issues involved in two major reports.5 ,6 Whichever way U.S. policies evolve, the committee believes that there are opportunities for the U.S. engineering community to increase its level of international activity. However, a precondition for productive international cooperation in engineering and technology is the formulation of consistent national policy that encourages initiatives that are mutually beneficial. The engineering community, including the NSF, must continue to articulate clearly how various policies relating to trade and national security affect the capacity of the U.S. technological enterprise to cooperate and compete internationally. The committee also concludes that the NSF can and should play a much more active and prominent role in advancing international cooperation in engineering than it does at present. As discussed in the chapters that follow, potential roles include â¢ collection and evaluation of information on international developments, especially by augmenting of the mission of existing U.S. centers of excellence; â¢ development of model programs and centers; â¢ sponsorship of exchanges and travel; â¢ sponsorship of joint research; â¢ sponsorship of visits by distinguished foreign engineers and technologists to the United States for presentation of reviews, perspectives, and outlooks; and â¢ influencing educational programs leading to more globally oriented U.S. engineers. In fact, to varying degrees, NSF already is operating engineering and technology programs that support international activity, for example, for attendance by U.S. researchers at conferences abroad and stipends to attract leading foreign researchers to the United States. Such programs form a sound basis on which to build, but they are too limited at present. In 1983, for example, the most recent year for which a detailed breakdown of expenditures is available, about 11 percent (approximately $11.3 million) of the Engineering Directorate's budget was applied to some 236 awards (13 percent of all grants) that had some international component or implication, such as a visit to or by a foreign engineer. However, the international component typically accounts for only a small fraction of each award, so that the actual resource levels applied by NSF to advance international engineering cooperation probably is less than 1 percent of its total Engineering Directorate budget. In the committee's view, this level of support is far too low, even given the existence of grants made by NSF directorates other than Engineering, for example, in computers and materials, and in the Division of International Programs (whose 1987 budget of about $10 million is applied to all fields of science and engineering).
THE CHANGING WORLD OF ENGINEERING PRACTICE 11 Specific education-related international activities now in place at NSF include â¢ Fellowships pertaining to engineering. Under bilateral agreements, NSF has been supporting about 20 postdoctorals per year in recent years, largely to Western Europe. â¢ Research grants. The program funds research and training in foreign laboratories usually arranged by principal investigator contacts, as well as travel to foreign data sources as required by research needs. NSF estimates that about 300 engineering researchers per year were supported in an international activity by this program in recent years. â¢ Participation in international meetings and short-term visits to centers overseas. In 1985 the main focus of such meetings and visits was on robotics and artificial intelligence work in Japan, the United Kingdom, and France; automated manufacturing research in the Federal Republic of Germany, the United Kingdom, and France; and earthquake hazard mitigation studies in Japan and the People's Republic of China. This report addresses and amplifies roles such as these for NSF and other organizations that can help maintain the competitiveness of U.S. engineering and technology while contributing to a more prosperous and secure world through international cooperation. The report also discusses such areas as international standards where national actions are needed, but in which organizations other than NSF must take the leading role. The committee's core finding and corresponding recommendation for the NSF apply more broadly for all the institutions of the U.S engineering and technology community: Establishing a more coherent and effective set of mechanisms for connecting to engineering progress abroad will be critically important to the enduring vitality of the U.S. technological enterprise. Engineering practice and education 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.