2003 November 25 Tuesday
38 Percent Of Ph.D. Scientists In United States Are Foreign-Born

A substantial portion of the brightest scientific and technical talent in America come from abroad.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Science Board (NSB) today released a report on the U.S. science and engineering (S&E) workforce following a three-year study, saying that new figures on the proportion of foreign-born workers in science and technology occupations make it crucial for the government to "act now" to meet future needs in science, engineering and technology fields.

NSB members briefing media at the National Press Club said that a sampling from 2000 census figures indicates a larger than previously known percentage of degree-holding, foreign-born professionals working in the United States in science and engineering occupations. The NSB presenters also revealed a downturn in the number of H1-B visas issued to foreign-born workers in science and technology.

According to the National Science Foundation's (NSF) figures derived from the 1990 census estimates of foreign-born workers in 1999 holding bachelor's degrees represented 11 percent of the total population in S&E-classified occupations. Foreign-born individuals with master's degrees held 19 percent of the S&E occupations held by master's recipients overall. Foreign-born Ph.D.s represented 29 percent of those positions.

The 2000 census figures, however, allowed for the first time a sampling that takes into account foreign workers holding degrees obtained in countries outside the United States. When factored in, the estimated proportions of foreign-born workers in S&E occupations in 1999 rose between six and 10 percent per category. Foreign-born workers with bachelor's degrees actually represented 17 percent of the total in S&E positions held by people with bachelor's degrees. The foreign-born proportion went up to 29 percent among those with master's degrees, and 38 percent among doctorate holders. NSF analysts point out that during the 1990s, there was a large influx of foreign-born scientists and engineers across most fields.

NSB members also reported that from 2001 to 2002, H-1B visas for foreign workers in science, engineering and technology-related fields declined sharply from about 166,000 to around 74,000.

The NSB began its review of the workforce in October 2000, even then recognizing that global competition for S&E talent was intensifying while the number of native-born graduates entering the S&E workforce was declining, a trend likely to continue, it said. The newest figures confirm the need for national-level action to ensure the nation's capacity in these critical fields in the face of an increasingly competitive global market, said members today.

"These trends provide policymakers with the unusual challenge in the coming years of producing enough talent from pools of both U.S. and foreign-educated professionals to fill the important and growing numbers of positions we expect in critical fields," said Warren M. Washington, NSB chair. Washington led the Press Club discussion on the board's new report, The Science and Engineering Workforce – Realizing America's Potential. Appearing with him were three members of the task force on national S&E workforce policies who led the study, Joseph A. Miller, an executive with Corning, Inc., George M. Langford, a research scientist, and Diana Natalicio, president of the University of Texas - El Paso. National Science Foundation director Rita R. Colwell was also on hand for the presentation.

In the longer term as living standards rise and opportunities increase for highly skilled engineers and scienists in such countries as China and India it will become more difficult for the US to recruit the best and the brightest. Eastern Europe's living standards will also likely rise and it is possible that the European Union might decide to fund a lot more science research and, by doing so, decrease the incentive for scientists in European countries to move to the United States. Also, companies that can distribute work around the world will have fewer incentives to try to bring highly skilled scientists and engineers to the United States to work. The ability of the United States to brain-drain the rest of the world looks like it may decline in coming decades.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 November 25 12:59 AM  Immigration Border Control

razib said at November 25, 2003 4:05 PM:

also-china offers some ethical flexibility in the area of biological sciences that the Christian U.S. and neo-Nature Pagan Europe does not....

jmartin said at July 16, 2009 9:54 AM:

"ethical flexibility" - did the Nazi's coin that phrase?

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