The modern world increasingly depends on the mathematical sciences in areas ranging from national security and medical technology to computer software, telecommunications, and investment policy. More and more American workers, from the boardroom to the assembly line, cannot do their jobs without mathematical skills. Without strong resources in the mathematical sciences, America will not retain its pre-eminence in industry and commerce.

At this moment, the U.S. enjoys a position of world leadership in the mathematical sciences. But this position is fragile. It depends very substantially on immigrants who had their mathematical training elsewhere and in particular on the massive flow of experts from the former Communist bloc. The latter, at least, will not continue because there is little talent left to drain and even less new talent being trained.

Young Americans do not see careers in the mathematical sciences as attractive. Funding for graduate study is scarce and ungenerous, especially when compared to funding for other sciences and with what happens in Western Europe. Further, it takes too long to obtain a doctorate because of the distractions of excessive teaching. Students wrongly believe that jobs that call for mathematical training are scarce and poorly paid. Weaknesses in K-12 mathematics education undermine the capabilities of the U.S. workforce.

Based on present trends, it is unlikely that the U.S. will be able to maintain its world leadership in the mathematical sciences. It is, however, essential for the U.S. to remain the world leader in critical subfields, and to maintain enough strength in all subfields to be able to take full advantage of mathematics developed elsewhere. Without remedial action by the universities and National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. will not remain strong in mathematics: there will not be enough excellent U.S.-trained mathematicians, nor will it be practicable to import enough experts from elsewhere, to fill the Nation’s needs.

Since the time of Pythagoras, mathematics has been one of the intellectual pinnacles of civilization. Although many mathematicians develop their subject as a purely logical structure, with no reference to the outside world, every area of mathematics, however pure it appears, has important applications: good pure mathematicians will always deserve support. For the benefit of the Nation and of U.S. mathematics, however, there must be more effective interaction between mathematicians and the users of mathematics. All participants in mathematics must share the responsibility for improving this interaction.

Since the National Science Foundation's role is to support scientific activities within universities, we recommend that it encourage programs that: