Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley said, “By the year 2010, 90 percent of the world’s scientists and engineers will live in Asia.”
Right now, 85 percent of people being trained in the advanced physical sciences in the U.S. are here on temporary education visas from abroad. Many of them end up going home and taking all that scientific knowledge with them.
It used to be that the “American Dream,” American lifestyles, and American opportunities would seduce these brilliant minds from all over the world to stay and contribute their genius to America’s growth and advancement. But now these scientific scholars are increasingly being lured by the opportunities, lifestyles and cultural comforts in their native lands, returning home once they complete their education.
Over the past two decades America has lost a significant amount of its ability to innovate. Its hope for the future, and its economic recovery depend upon:
•Supporting top international scholars and somehow motivating them to stay in the United States rather than going home to start careers in their native lands.
•Identifying, exciting, encouraging and preparing large numbers of the best and brightest young American students in the field of advanced sciences, recruiting them into the ranks of an intellectual force that will enable America to become the world leader of technology in the 21st century.
Those of us who are now part of the science and engineering community are searching for ways to identify, attract and motivate the next generation of young innovators to power up our technological future. That’s why a grassroots collaboration of business, education, and political leaders across the country, has conceived and orchestrated the month-long USA Science & Engineering Festival — a series of events culminating in a two-day Expo on the National Mall. The idea is to excite and engage American students and their families in the future promise of these fields. After all, society gets what it celebrates!
Our Advisory Board and our sponsors, including Lockheed Martin, Life Technologies and the Science Channel know that over the past two decades America has lost a significant amount of its ability to innovate. Our focus as a nation must be to rebuild our scientific brain trust, and the process must begin immediately. Otherwise, we will find that we have outsourced innovation — and with it, our future.
The Obama Administration through its Educate to Innovate program is a major proponent of home-growing the next generation of scientists and engineers. Its goal is to stem the brain drain from departing graduates and encourage more American students to pursue careers in these fields. But we need powerful ways to show foreign and American students that the majority of our future science, technology and engineering breakthroughs will be developed in this country.
Through more than 1,000 activities, the USA Science & Engineering Festival will attract, entertain, educate — and, we hope, inspire — up to half a million young, middle-aged, and older people through science. Events will include brown bag lunches for students with Nobel Laureates, more than 100 top scientists and engineers visiting DC, VA and MD public schools, open houses from scientific organizations and much, much more.
To reach the greatest number of people possible, both in Washington, DC and through out the nation, the grand finale of the USA Science & Engineering Festival will be a two day Expo on the National Mall, on October 23-24, 2010. Expo Weekend will compress into two incredible days, the best and most exciting parts of the 30-day festival, including hands-on exhibits, science demonstrations, magicians, comedians, and stage shows. More than 75 satellite events across the country will link together science communities throughout the United States.
It is our sincerest hope that the tangible, interactive nature of the Festival, combined with the inherent human curiosity about the physical world around us, will spark our next generation of pioneering scientists. The hopes of the new administration, and, indeed, the future of our fine nation, are resting squarely on the emergence of these “tech-saviors.”
~~written for the Huffington Post by Larry Bock