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Fact Sheet

Realizing America's Potential

November 19, 2003

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The need. During the late 1990s, the National Science Board (NSB) became increasingly aware of workforce changes taking place in a transforming economy, largely focused on the technological and information revolution. This transformation changed the skill mix in the national workforce and led to an increasing demand for workers with mathematical skills, scientific literacy and abilities in analytical thinking to make on-the-job decisions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that between 2000 and 2010, science and engineering-related occupations will grow by 47 percent, compared to about 15 percent for all occupations as a whole (see: ). The changing needs, however, seemed to outpace the nation's ability to develop a coherent framework of long-term goals and national strategies to insure the continued education, development and recruitment of highly trained and talented workers from within the United States and from other countries.

Formation of the task force. The NSB identified several trends in the workplace and in education nationwide that required immediate attention, including: a U.S. college-aged population, which will stop increasing after 2010, while minorities - traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering fields – will grow as a share of that population; increasing reliance on international talent, even while competition for that talent is growing as other nations build high technology industries and higher education systems, and; inconsistent policies regarding recruitment and treatment of foreign-born scientists to encourage them to join the ranks of US industry, Federal laboratories and academia.

The NSB responded by establishing a Task Force on National Workforce Policies for Science and Engineering in October 2000. The eight-member task force was charged with assessing the long-term trends in the science and engineering workforce and their relationship to existing federal policies, while recommending strategies to address the long-term needs of the science and engineering (S&E) workforce. The task force was asked to pay particular attention to demographic trends in the workforce and education, graduate training options, and data regarding industry's demand for highly skilled workers. The task force also was asked to review the mix of federal law, state programs, educational institutions and employer recruitment and incentives as they affect choices made on S&E careers.

The process for a report. The task force set up its work plan in December 2000, then received data briefings in January 2001. It then commissioned a study on the flow of foreign science and engineering workers.

Meetings followed with education experts leading to a workshop in March 2002 on national policies addressing the U.S. education system, focusing on bachelor's degree and associate's degree recipients.

In June, 2002, the task force turned its attention to the interplay between the international character of the S&E workforce and national needs. The group held a workshop that included a presentation by John Marburger, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the president's science advisor. Other experts from government, industry, professional societies and academic institutions also made presentations. The NSB also contracted for a comprehensive literature review, which compiled and summarized studies that contained policy recommendations relevant to the S&E workforce.

In May 2003, the NSB approved a draft report for public comment over a 30-day period. In August, a revised draft was approved, subject to final editing, and then titled, The Science and Engineering Workforce – Realizing America's Potential.

The latest information. The NSB reviewed new 2000 Census figures and the latest information available on H1-B visas. The task force concluded that the data represented a reinforcement of its recommendations, particularly on the need for increasing support to undergraduate education programs, and wider data collection and analysis on international workforce trends. The NSB plans to expand this review of the new Census information for release with the upcoming edition of Science and Engineering Indicators, 2004.


Media Contacts
William C. Noxon, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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