News & Views item - February 2010



National Science Board: What Federal Research Officials Must do to Keep US World's Leading Scientific Power. (February 24, 2010)

The oversight body of the National Science Foundation, the National Science Board (NSB), describes in an "essay" of ten pages the Globalization of Science and Engineering Research, a companion to its  Science and Engineering Indicators 2010 the requirements for the United States to remain in front of the pack in regard to scientific research.


The NSB's document concludes: "The U.S. has long been a world leader in these areas, but comparative international data in Indicators 2010 underscore the sometimes rapidly growing competitiveness of other nations and economies. While globalization of S&E research holds great promise for the advancement of scientific knowledge and for international collaboration, the U.S. government, as the primary support for U.S. basic and academic research, must respond to growing capabilities outside our borders. We urge Federal attention and action to sustain U.S. world leadership in S&E research in response to growing S&E capacity around the world. Our nation's future prosperity and security depend on strong and unwavering Federal commitment to this goal."


The NSB chair, Steven Beering, believes that the Obama Administration is actually doing a pretty good job so far: "I think that President Obama has taken a sincere and proactive stance in promoting science; but we're asking [the NSF] to re-evaluate the current mechanisms and make sure that they are following best practices."


The essay states NSF should sharpen its criteria for choosing research projects to make sure they are "transformative", i.e. "high-risk, high-reward, and other federal research agencies should measure their portfolios against what's going on elsewhere. And the White House should make innovation a higher priority by creating a presidential council to track the issue.


[T]he National Science Foundation the only non-mission-oriented Federal agency that funds S&E research should assess its two merit review criteria for funding of S&E research to ensure that the criteria encourage the proposing and support of truly transformative research, and should modify the criteria and/or merit review process if the assessment finds modifications necessary to accomplish this goal.


Below we reproduce several of the charts provided in the essay.