2014 Science and Engineering Indicators (PDF)
Source: National Science Board
The Indicators series was designed to provide a broad base of quantitative information about U.S. science, engineering, and technology for use by policymakers, researchers, and the general public. Science and Engineering Indicators 2014 contains analyses of key aspects of the scope, quality, and vitality of the Nation’s science and engineering enterprise in the context of global science and technology.
The report presents information on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education at all levels; the scientific and engineering workforce; U.S. and international research and development performance; U.S. competitiveness in high technology; and public attitudes and understanding of science and engineering. A chapter on state-level science and engineering enables state comparisons on selected indicators. An Overview chapter synthesizes selected key themes emerging from the report.
STEM Education for the Innovation Economy (PDF)
Source: U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee
Innovation is a primary driver of American prosperity. A significant portion of economic growth in the United States has been attributed to improved productivity resulting in part from innovation. To ensure that innovation and productivity growth continue, more Americans than ever will need to be equipped with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.
Over the next decade, the economy will need nearly one million more STEM professionals than the United States will produce at the current rate. Due to the high demand for STEM-capable workers, wage and employment prospects for individuals with these skills are excellent. Even so, not enough Americans are studying STEM to meet the economy’s needs . Fewer than one-in-five students obtain a bachelor’s degree in STEM and the percentage of freshmen intending to study computer science dropped to 1.5 percent in 2010, down from 5.2 percent 10 years earlier.
Efforts to increase the number of STEM-capable workers must focus not only on higher education , but also on helping those who want to retrain and transition into STEM occupations. Certificate programs, for example, can help workers quickly acquire STEM skills they did not originally obtain in post-secondary programs. Increasing participation by veterans, women and minorities will also help provide additional STEM workers.
This report examines the growing number of STEM jobs in the United States and how to help American students take advant age of those opportunities. It also suggests policy changes that can be implemented to help the workforce become more STEM proficient.
Moore’s law: Repeal or renewal?
Source: McKinsey & Company
The global semiconductor industry has recorded impressive achievements since 1965, when Intel cofounder Gordon Moore published the observation that would become the industry’s touchstone. Moore’s law states that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every two years, and for the past four decades it has set the pace for progress in the semiconductor industry. The positive by-products of the constant scaling down that Moore’s law predicts include simultaneous cost declines, made possible by fitting more transistors per area onto silicon chips, and performance increases with regard to speed, compactness, and power consumption. As a result, semiconductor-enabled products today play integral roles in virtually every aspect of modern life.
In this article, we will examine the technologies that aim to extend the life of Moore’s law and model their impact on four likely future scenarios for the industry. Obviously, there are many factors in play, but we believe the economics of continued advances in performance could eventually disrupt the companies competing in the business today.
FAA Selects Six Sites for Unmanned Aircraft Research
Source: Federal Aviation Administration
After a rigorous 10-month selection process involving 25 proposals from 24 states, the Federal Aviation Administration has chosen six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and test site operators across the country.
In selecting the six test site operators, the FAA considered geography, climate, location of ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, safety, aviation experience and risk. In totality, these six test applications achieve cross-country geographic and climatic diversity and help the FAA meet its UAS research needs.
A brief description of the six test site operators and the research they will conduct into future UAS use are below:
University of Alaska. The University of Alaska proposal contained a diverse set of test site range locations in seven climatic zones as well as geographic diversity with test site range locations in Hawaii and Oregon. The research plan includes the development of a set of standards for unmanned aircraft categories, state monitoring and navigation. Alaska also plans to work on safety standards for UAS operations.
State of Nevada. Nevada’s project objectives concentrate on UAS standards and operations as well as operator standards and certification requirements. The applicant’s research will also include a concentrated look at how air traffic control procedures will evolve with the introduction of UAS into the civil environment and how these aircraft will be integrated with NextGen. Nevada’s selection contributes to geographic and climatic diversity.
New York’s Griffiss International Airport. Griffiss International plans to work on developing test and evaluation as well as verification and validation processes under FAA safety oversight. The applicant also plans to focus its research on sense and avoid capabilities for UAS and its sites will aid in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested, northeast airspace.
North Dakota Department of Commerce. North Dakota plans to develop UAS airworthiness essential data and validate high reliability link technology. This applicant will also conduct human factors research. North Dakota’s application was the only one to offer a test range in the Temperate (continental) climate zone and included a variety of different airspace which will benefit multiple users.
Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. Texas A&M plans to develop system safety requirements for UAS vehicles and operations with a goal of protocols and procedures for airworthiness testing. The selection of Texas A&M contributes to geographic and climactic diversity.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Virginia Tech plans to conduct UAS failure mode testing and identify and evaluate operational and technical risks areas. This proposal includes test site range locations in both Virginia and New Jersey.
Geoengineering: Governance and Technology Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The term “geoengineering” describes an array of technologies that aim, through large-scale and deliberate modifications of the Earth’s energy balance, to reduce temperatures and counteract anthropogenic climate change. Most of these technologies are at the conceptual and research stages, and their effectiveness at reducing global temperatures has yet to be proven. Moreover, very few studies have been published that document the cost, environmental effects, sociopolitical impacts, and legal implications of geoengineering. If geoengineering technologies were to be deployed, they are expected to have the potential to cause significant transboundary effects.
In general, geoengineering technologies are categorized as either a carbon dioxide removal (CDR) method or a solar radiation management (SRM) method. CDR methods address the warming effects of greenhouse gases by removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. CDR methods include ocean fertilization, and carbon capture and sequestration. SRM methods address climate change by increasing the reflectivity of the Earth’s atmosphere or surface. Aerosol injection and space-based reflectors are examples of SRM methods. SRM methods do not remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, but can be deployed faster with relatively immediate global cooling results compared to CDR methods.
To date, there is limited federal involvement in, or oversight of, geoengineering. However, some states as well as some federal agencies, notably the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Defense, have taken actions related to geoengineering research or projects. At the international level, there is no international agreement or organization governing the full spectrum of possible geoengineering activities. Nevertheless, provisions of many international agreements, including those relating to climate change, maritime pollution, and air pollution, would likely inform the types of geoengineering activities that state parties to these agreements might choose to pursue. In 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted provisions calling for member parties to abstain from geoengineering unless the parties have fully considered the risks and impacts of those activities on biodiversity.
With the possibility that geoengineering technologies may be developed and that climate change will remain an issue of global concern, policymakers may determine whether geoengineering warrants attention at either the federal or international level. If so, policymakers will also need to consider whether geoengineering can be effectively addressed by amendments to existing laws and international agreements or, alternatively, whether new laws and international treaties would need to be developed.
STEM Attrition: College Students’ Paths Into and Out of STEM Fields
Source: National Center for Health Statistics
This Statistical Analysis Report presents the most recent national statistics on beginning bachelor’s and associate’s degree students’ entrance into, and attrition from, STEM fields. Using recent transcript data, it provides a first look at STEM coursetaking and examines how participation and performance in undergraduate STEM coursework, along with other factors, are associated with STEM attrition. The study is based on data from the 2004/09 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/09) and the associated 2009 Postsecondary Education Transcript Study (PETS:09).
Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering
Source: National Science Foundation
Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering provides statistical information about the participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering education and employment. A formal report, now in the form of a digest, is issued every 2 years.
Analyze This! 145 Questions for Data Scientists in Software Engineering
Source: Microsoft Research
In this paper, we present the results from two surveys related to data science applied to software engineering. The first survey solicited questions that software engineers would like to ask data scientists to investigate about software, software processes and practices, and about software engineers. Our analysis resulted in a list of 145 questions grouped into 12 categories. The second survey asked a different pool of software engineers to rate the 145 questions and identify the most important ones to work on first. Respondents favored questions that focus on how customers typically use their applications. We also see opposition to questions that assess the performance of individual employees or compare them to one another. Our categorization and catalog of 145 questions will help researchers, practitioners, and educators to more easily focus their efforts on topics that are important to the software industry.
The Relationship Between Science and Engineering Education and Employment in STEM Occupations (PDF)
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
- In 2011, there were 7.2 million STEM workers aged 25 to 64, accounting for 6 percent of the work- force. Half of STEM workers worked in computer occupations. An additional 7.8 million workers were employed in STEM-related occupations, most of which were in health care.
- About 70 percent of STEM workers had at least a bachelor’s degree, while 30 percent of STEM workers had less than a bachelor’s degree.
- Of the 40.6 million employed college graduates aged 25 to 64, 36 percent reported a science or engineering major for their bachelor’s degree.
- The vast majority of workers who have been trained in sci- ence and engineering are not currently working in a STEM occupation. Only 26 percent of science and engineering gradu- ates are currently employed in a STEM occupation. Instead, they are employed in fields such as non-STEM management, health care, law, education, social work, accounting, or counseling.
See also: Disparities in STEM Employment by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin (PDF)
Regional Concentrations of Scientists and Engineers in the United States
Source: National Science Foundation
Science and engineering (S&E) employment in the United States is geographically concentrated in a small number of states and several major metropolitan areas within those states, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey (ACS). The three most populous states—California, Texas, and New York—together accounted for more than one-fourth of all S&E employment in the United States. Several major metropolitan areas in those states, for example, areas around Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and San Diego, all in California, and areas around New York City and Houston, together accounted for approximately 1 in 10 S&E workers nationwide.
The availability of a skilled workforce is an important predictor of a region’s population, productivity, and technological growth. Workers with S&E expertise are an integral part of a region’s innovative capacity because of their high levels of skill, creative ideas, and contributions to scientific knowledge and R&D.
Industrial Designers Play a Critical Role in Manufacturing, Technology, and Innovation
Source: National Endowment for the Arts
“Design, vitalized and simplified, will make the comforts of civilized life available to an ever-increasing number of Americans,” said 20th-century industrial design pioneer Raymond Loewy. For the first time, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) takes an in-depth look at this dynamic field in the report Valuing the Art of Industrial Design: A Profile of the Sector and Its Importance to Manufacturing, Technology, and Innovation. NEA representatives announced the report today at the Industrial Designers Society of America’s international conference in Chicago, Illinois.
Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products such as cars, home and electronic appliances, sporting goods, toys, and more. Working in a range of industries, industrial designers combine art, business, and engineering to make products and improve systems that people use every day. In recent years, they have also helped design user experiences and systems in a process known as “design thinking.” For example, industrial designers have worked on teams to improve the way patients and staff interact in the emergency room.
“Industrial designers play a significant role in today’s innovation economy, and they bring a creative lens to approach complex problems or challenges,” said NEA Senior Deputy Chairman Joan Shigekawa. “We hope this report provokes more discussion about how art works in the U.S. economy.”
Data standards are a powerful, real-world tool for enterprise interoperability, yet there exists no rigorous methodology for selecting among alternative standards approaches. This paper is a first step toward creating a detailed engineering basis for choosing among standards approaches. We define a specific sub-problem within a community’s data sharing challenge, and focus on it in depth. We describe the major choices (kinds of standards) applied to that task, examining tradeoffs. We present characteristics of a data sharing community that one should consider in selecting a standards approach—such as relative power, motivation level, and technical sophistication of different participants—and illustrate with real-world examples. We then show that one can state simple decision rules (based on engineering experience) that system engineers without decades of data experience can apply. We also comment on the methodology used, extracting lessons (e.g., “negative rules are simpler”) that can be used in similar analyses on other issues.
Messaging for Engineering: From Research to Action
Source: Transportation Research Board
The National Academy of Engineering has released a report that supports efforts by the engineering community to communicate more effectively about the profession and those who practice it. The report builds on the 2008 NAE publication, Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering (CTC), which presented the results of a research-based effort to develop and test new, more effective messages about engineering.
The new messages cast engineering as inherently creative and concerned with human welfare, as well as an emotionally satisfying calling. The report summarizes progress in implementing the CTC messages, but also recognizes that there is potential to galvanize additional action and thus suggests specific steps for major players in the engineering community to continue and build on progress to date.
Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2014 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Homeland Security Digital Library)
Congress has received President Obama’s budget request for FY2014, which includes $142.773 billion for research and development (R&D), a $1.861 billion (1.3%) increase from the FY2012 actual funding level of $140.912 billion. The request represents the President’s R&D priorities; Congress may opt to agree with part or all of the request, or may express different priorities through the appropriations process. In particular, Congress will play a central role in determining the extent to which the federal R&D investment can grow in the context of increased pressure on discretionary spending and how available funding will be prioritized and allocated. Low or negative growth in the overall R&D investment may require movement of resources across disciplines, programs, or agencies to address priorities.
Funding for R&D is highly concentrated in a few departments. Under President Obama’s FY2014 budget request, seven federal agencies would receive 95.3% of total federal R&D funding, with the Department of Defense (47.8%) and the Department of Health and Human Services (22.4%, primarily for the National Institutes of Health) accounting for more than 70% of all federal R&D funding.
Among the largest changes proposed in the President’s request, the R&D budget of the Department of Defense would fall by $4.625 billion (6.3%), while R&D funding for the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would increase by $1.428 billion. The NIST growth is fueled by increases in funding for its core research laboratories and by the establishment of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation with $1 billion in mandatory funding. The NNMI seeks to promote the development of manufacturing technologies with broad applications.
President Obama has requested increases in the R&D budgets of NIST, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science that were targeted for doubling over 7 years, from their FY2006 levels, by the America COMPETES Act, and over 10 years by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. The FY2014 request breaks with President Obama’s earlier budgets, which explicitly stated the goal of doubling funding for these accounts over their FY2006 aggregate level. Instead the Office of Science and Technology Policy asserts that the FY2014 request “maintains the President’s commitment to increase funding for research at these three science agencies.” The President’s FY2014 request sets a pace that would result in doubling of the FY2006 level over a period of more than 17 years, much longer than authorized by either act.
The President’s FY2014 request continues support for three multi-agency R&D initiatives in FY2014, proposing $1.704 billion for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a reduction of $159 million (8.6%) over FY2012, due primarily to reductions in NNI funding at DOD and NSF; $3.968 billion for the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program, an increase of $159 million (4.2%) over FY2012; and $2.652 billion for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), an increase of $151 million (6.0%) over FY2012.
In recent years, Congress has used a variety of mechanisms to complete the annual appropriations process after the start of the fiscal year. This may affect agencies’ execution of their R&D budgets, including delaying or canceling some planned R&D and equipment acquisition.
Land-Use Requirements for Solar Power Plants in the United States (PDF)
Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (DoE)
By the third quarter of 2012, the United States had deployed more than 2.1 gigawatts (GWac1 ) of utility-scale solar generation capacity, with 4.6 GWac under construction as of August 2012 (SEIA 2012). Continued growth is anticipated owing to state renewable portfolio standards and decreasing system costs (DOE 2012a). One concern regarding large-scale deployment of solar energy is its potentially significant land use. Efforts have been made to understand solar land use estimates from the literature (Horner and Clark 2013); however, we were unable to find a comprehensive evaluation of solar land use requirements from the research literature. This report provides data and analysis of the land use associated with U.S. utility-scale2 ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) facilities.
After discussing solar land-use metrics and our data-collection and analysis methods, we present total and direct land-use results for various solar technologies and system configurations, on both a capacity and an electricity-generation basis. The total area corresponds to all land enclosed by the site boundary. The direct area comprises land directly occupied by solar arrays, access roads, substations, service buildings, and other infrastructure. We quantify and summarize the area impacted, recognizing that the quality and duration of the impact must be evaluated on a case-bycase basis. As of the third quarter of 2012, the solar projects we analyze represent 72% of installed and under-construction utility-scale PV and CSP capacity in the United States. Table ES-1 summarizes our land-use results.
Modeling and Simulation of a Ground Based Sense and Avoid Architecture for Unmanned Aircraft System Operations
The safe operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the National Airspace System necessitates a capability to sense and avoid other airborne objects. One solution is a Ground Based Sense and Avoid concept, where data from ground-based radars are fused in a specially tuned tracking system that can provide traffic information to manual (flight crews) or automatic collision avoidance systems. In this paper, we will present a modeling and simulation approach for assessing site-specific radar detection and tracking performance. High fidelity primary surveillance radar and tracking system models enable simulation studies with the objective of determining target probability of detection and distributions of expected track initiation times across the surveillance volume. Atmospheric and environmental conditions, terrain, and land coverage type affect radar wave propagation. Models take into account these sources of degradation, as well as target characteristics, site-specific radar performance, and tracking system filtering and initiation logic. This information will help in the development of a GBSAA concept of operation, mission planning, and will ultimately define where UAS can operate with sufficient surveillance performance to meet sense and avoid requirements.
New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Employment and Training: Labor’s Green Jobs Efforts Highlight Challenges of Targeted Training Programs for Emerging Industries. GAO-13-555, June 19.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/655332.pdf
2. America Competes Acts: Overall Appropriations Have Increased and Have Mainly Funded Existing Federal Research Entities. GAO-13-612, July 19.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/656020.pdf
3. Financial Audit: American Battle Monuments Commission’s Financial Statements for Fiscal Years 2012 and 2011. GAO-13-641, July 19.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/656036.pdf
An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy
Source: National Research Council
The potential for using fusion energy to produce commercial electric power was first explored in the 1950s. Harnessing fusion energy offers the prospect of a nearly carbon-free energy source with a virtually unlimited supply of fuel. Unlike nuclear fission plants, appropriately designed fusion power plants would not produce the large amounts of high-level nuclear waste that requires long-term disposal. Due to these prospects, many nations have initiated research and development (R&D) programs aimed at developing fusion as an energy source. Two R&D approaches are being explored: magnetic fusion energy (MFE) and inertial fusion energy (IFE).
An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy describes and assesses the current status of IFE research in the United States; compares the various technical approaches to IFE; and identifies the scientific and engineering challenges associated with developing inertial confinement fusion (ICF) in particular as an energy source. It also provides guidance on an R&D roadmap at the conceptual level for a national program focusing on the design and construction of an inertial fusion energy demonstration plant.
Skills, Professional Regulation, and International Mobility in the Engineering Workforce (PDF)
Source: Migration Policy Institute
Professionals, particularly in regulated occupations, often face significant obstacles gaining certification to work in other countries, finding it difficult to demonstrate the value of their academic and professional qualifications. This can result in both barriers to entering work and to international mobility. This report examines those barriers and reviews the skills and structure of the engineering workforce, the industry’s professional regulation, and international efforts to forge common standards.
Science and Technology Issues in the 113th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)
Science and technology have a pervasive influence over a wide range of issues confronting the nation. Public and private research and development spurs scientific and technological advancement. Such advances can drive economic growth, help address national priorities, and improve health and quality of life. The constantly changing nature and ubiquity of science and technology frequently creates public policy issues of congressional interest.
The federal government supports scientific and technological advancement by directly funding research and development and indirectly by creating and maintaining policies that encourage private sector efforts. Additionally, the federal government establishes and enforces regulatory frameworks governing many aspects of S&T activities.
This report briefly outlines an array of science and technology policy issues that may come before the 113 th Congress. Given the ubiquity of science and technology and its constantly evolving nature, some science and technology related-issues not discussed in this report may come before the 113 th Congress. The selected issues are grouped into 11 categories:
- Overarching S&T issues,
- Workforce and Education,
- Biomedical Research and Development,
- Homeland Security, and
- Information Technology.
Each of these categories includes concise analysis of multiple policy issues. The information and analysis presented in this report should be view ed as introductory rather than comprehensive.
Each section identifies available CRS reports and the appropriate CRS expert for further information and analysis.