NRC Report Reviews S&T Strategies of Six Countries

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Publication date: 
19 November 2010
Number: 
115

One  of the key decisions Congress will make in coming months concerns future federal  funding for science and technology.  A National  Research Council report requested by the Central Intelligence Agency and the  Defense Intelligence Agency highlights the need to make this decision in the  context of actions being taken by other foreign governments in their support of  S&T, and the implications these actions will have on U.S. security and  competitiveness.

“S&T  Strategies of Six Countries – Implications for the United States” was issued by  the Committee on Global Science and Technology Strategies and Their Effect on  U.S. National Security, under the NRC’s Division on Engineering and Physical  Sciences.  The committee chair was C.D.  (Dan) Mote, Jr. of the University of Maryland. 

The  126-page report offers important insights into the science and technology strategies  of China, Singapore, India, Brazil, Japan, and Russia.  The report also discusses how a nation’s culture,  or what the committee calls unique national features, determines a nation’s  advances in science and technology. 

The  committee concluded that a nation’s culture is of great importance, explaining “One  of the better indicators of a country’s ability to achieve its S&T innovation  goals is its ability to effect the requisite cultural changes.”  Russia has had the least capability to make  these changes, while China and Singapore have shown the highest  capability.  The committee also found  that countries with both top-down (government) and bottom-up (individuals and  organizations) drivers of change had the most successful S&T  environment.  China and Singapore rated well  in this regard.  “The likelihood of their  continued, substantial progress is therefore high” the committee concluded.

Many  readers will find that the report’s separate chapters on each country are of  great interest.  Between six and fifteen  pages long, the chapters include sections on topics such as “net assessment of  S&T strategy,” “projected advances in S&T proficiency,” and “S&T  investments of interest,” as well as well as S&T indicators unique to each  country.  Of interest is a review of the pertinent  characteristics of each nation’s culture as it affects advances in science and  technology. 

The  committee makes seven key recommendations, five of which focus on the monitoring  of other countries’ S&T advances.    Two are more inward focused, notably the final recommendation:

“The  U.S. government should assess, as a matter of urgency, the national security  implications     of  the continuing global S&T revolution and the global dispersion of R&D.  It should evaluate the impact of the decline in U.S. academic competitiveness  at the primary and secondary levels, as pointed out in the 2007 report Rising  Above the Gathering Storm, especially with regard to the sciences. Equally  important, the assessment should seek mechanisms for sustainable U.S.  government collaboration with the international community to uncover and  exploit potential scientific and technological breakthroughs, wherever they  occur, and to contain whatever threats they may portend.”

A  recent UNESCO report analyzed the state of science and technology in many of  the countries included in the NRC report.   A summary of this UNESCO report is available at physicstoday.org