Have We Given Up on Science?

Are U.S. Innovators Losing Their Competitive Edge? asks as article in today’s New York Times.
The article cites a report from the National Academy of Sciences which tries to ring the alarm: “Although many people assume that the United States will always be a world leader in science and technology, this may not continue to be the case inasmuch as great minds and ideas exist throughout the world. We fear the abruptness with which a lead in science and technology can be lost – and the difficulty of recovering a lead once lost, if indeed it can be regained at all.”
The report cites China and India among a number of economically promising countries that may be poised to usurp America’s leadership in innovation and job growth.
“For the first time in generations, the nation’s children could face poorer prospects than their parents and grandparents did,” the report said. “We owe our current prosperity, security and good health to the investments of past generations, and we are obliged to renew those commitments.”
The Industrial Research Institute, an organization in Arlington, Va., that represents some of the nation’s largest corporations, is also concerned that the academic and financial support for scientific innovation is lagging in the United States. The group’s most recent data indicate that from 1986 to 2001, China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan all awarded more doctoral degrees in science and engineering than did the United States. Between 1991 and 2003, research and development spending in America trailed that of China, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan – in China’s case by billions of dollars.
Read the report. Here’s the TOC:
1 A Disturbing Mosaic
2 Why Are Science and Technology Critical to America\’s Prosperity in the 21st Century
3 How is America Doing Now in Science and Technology
4 What Actions Should America Take to Remain Prosperous in the 21st Century
5 Ten Thousand Teachers-Ten Million Minds
6 Sowing the Seeds
7 Best and the Brightest
8 Innovation Incentives
9 What Might the United States Be Like if it is Not Competitive in Science and Technology
Ouch!
BTW, the National Academy of Sciences also has this report available online: Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition (1999)
Heck, just listen to what Peter Drucker had to say.
All is not lost, yet. But we took a wrong turn somewhere.
The article raises another point:
“The inventiveness of individuals depends on the context, including sociopolitical, economic, cultural and institutional factors,” said Merton C. Flemings, a professor emeritus at M.I.T. who holds 28 patents and oversees the Lemelson-M.I.T. Program for inventors. “We remain one of the most inventive countries in the world. But all the signs suggest that we won’t retain that pre-eminence much longer. The future is very bleak, I’m afraid.”
Mr. Flemings said that private and public capital was not being adequately funneled to the kinds of projects and people that foster invention. The study of science is not valued in enough homes, he observed, and science education in grade school and high school is sorely lacking.
But quantitative goals, he said, are not enough. Singapore posts high national scores in mathematics, he said, but does not have a reputation for churning out new inventions. In fact, he added, researchers from Singapore have studied school systems in America to try to glean the source of something ineffable and not really quantifiable: creativity.
“In addition to openness, tolerance is essential in an inventive modern society,” a report sponsored by the Lemelson-M.I.T. Program said last year. “Creative people, whether artists or inventive engineers, are often nonconformists and rebels. Indeed, invention itself can be perceived as an act of rebellion against the status quo.”
Which brings us to Richard Florida

Trying to Understand the Riots in France

Two articles from BusinessWeek on the trouble in France:
– “Sarkozy Googles as Paris Riots” and
– “The Economics Fueling the French Riots
The articles are written from a “US viewpoint.” A comment left behind the second article is worth noting:
I did not expect BusinessWeek to come out with such a biased article, very pro-American. Very hypocritical as well. France’s social politics is set up to not “leave people behind” and give them an opportunity instead of straight poverty. The only thing that America does offer unemployed youngsters a job in the Army to support their own politics/shake-up/disrespect of Muslim countries; that attitude fuels Muslims worldwide with anger towards all Western societies, including France. The problem isn’t just unemployment but it’s more about France’s ancient “social class differences” and the non-white immigrant population doesn’t like to be called “scum” (a French minister’s outraged response to the first riots). This was written by a white guy from the Netherlands.
Another view from Parapundit: French Muslim Rioting Hits Yet Another High
I’m not sure what to think about all this craziness. The “white guy” in the Netherlands pretends he lives in a color-blind society. The BusinessWeek folk think it’s about unemployment rates. And the french politician is just covering his behind. I should ask Doug Smith.
UPDATE: Economist article

Talent War: China’s Woes

JSB and JH3 are right:
“Where value originates and who captures it will increasingly depend on the evolution of talent markets and the relative capability of firms (and nations) to rapidly develop and amplify the value of this talent. Product markets and financial markets will of course still matter, but the center of gravity for value creation and capture will inexorably migrate to global talent markets…” see The Only Sustainable Edge
The global talent war continues. Now, a McKinsey Quarterly article “China’s looming talent shortage” backs up Seely Brown and Hagel, making the following points:
– If China’s economy is to go on growing and its base is to evolve from manufacturing to services, it will require a huge number of qualified university graduates.
– While university graduates are plentiful there, new research shows that only a small proportion of them have the skills required for jobs further up the value chain—and competition for these graduates is becoming fierce.
– China must undertake a long-term effort to raise the quality of its graduates by changing the way it finances its universities, revamping curriculums to meet the needs of industry, and improving the quality of English-language instruction.
– China could emerge as a base for IT and business process offshoring, but unless the country addresses its looming labor shortage now the global ambitions of Chinese companies will probably be stymied.
It’s all about quality! The paradox:
China’s pool of potential talent is enormous. In 2003 China had roughly 8.5 million young professional graduates with up to seven years’ work experience and an additional 97 million people that would qualify for support-staff positions. Despite this apparently vast supply, multinational companies are finding that few graduates have the necessary skills for service occupations. According to interviews with 83 human-resources professionals involved with hiring local graduates in low-wage countries, fewer than 10 percent of Chinese job candidates, on average, would be suitable for work in a foreign company in the nine occupations we studied: engineers, finance workers, accountants, quantitative analysts, generalists, life science researchers, doctors, nurses, and support staff.
Read the article here. (registration required)

The Rise and Fall of Brand America

When we express a preference for French holidays, German cars or Italian opera, when we instinctively trust the policies of the Swedish government, comment on the ambition of the Japanese, the bluntness of the Americans or the courtesy of the British, when we avoid investing in Russia, favor Turkey’s entry into Europe or admire the heritage of China and India, we are responding to brand images in exactly the same way as when we’re shopping for clothing or food. But these are far bigger brands than Nike or Nestlé. They are the brands of nations.
Nation brand is an important concept in today’s world. Globalization means that countries compete with each other for the attention, respect and trust of investors, tourists, consumers, donors, immigrants, the media, and the governments of other nations: so a powerful and positive nation brand provides a crucial competitive advantage. It is essential for countries to understand how they are seen by publics around the world; how their achievements and failures, their assets and their liabilities, their people and their products are reflected in their brand image.
Simon Anholt has developed the Anholt-GMI Nation Brands Index – the first analytical ranking of the world’s nation brands. This report: Nation Brands Index – Q3 Report, 2005 tells us how nations view each other. Good stuff.
But even more critical, perhaps, is Anholt’s book: Brand America: The Mother of All Brands.
Here’s how the book is advertised on Anholt’s website:
Q: When is a country like a brand?
A: When it’s the United States of America.
America is more than just a country: it’s the biggest brand in history. Launched as a global brand, managed like a global brand and advertised like a global brand since the Declaration of Independence, America has deliberately marketed itself – as well as its products and culture – with skill, determination and sheer, hardnosed salesmanship.
But today, it’s a brand in trouble. Brand America shows, for the first time in print, how the world’s most successful brand grew to greatness, how close it now is to throwing it all away, and how it might win back those disillusioned ‘consumers’.
For anybody who has ever wondered what was the secret behind America’s greatness, and what happens next to the world’s sole superpower, Brand America is essential reading.
It’ll change your mind about brands, about countries and about America for ever.
Here’s what Phil Kotler had to say about the book:
“Anholt and Hildreth are to be congratulated for raising the issue of why Brand America is suffering a strong decline around the world. They trace American history, the values of Brand America and the growth of anti-Americanism, and offer stimulating suggestions for how to repair our broken image.”
Read it. That’s Brand America: The Mother of All Brands.

The Fortune Under the Pyramid


From the Economist:
“For workers from poor countries who venture abroad to earn a better living, sending money home to relatives can be hugely expensive. Such remittances have become an important source of income in many developing countries, dwarfing other inflows of capital from overseas such as foreign direct investment and multilateral aid. But if the money is being sent, say, from America to Venezuela, charges can amount to as much as 34% of the sum involved, according to Dilip Ratha of the World Bank.
“Why are the poor so badly served? The easy answer, that people who have little money do not make suitable clients for sophisticated financial services, is at most a half-truth. A better explanation, this survey will argue, is that the poor have been hurt by massive market and regulatory failure. Fortunately that failure can be, and increasingly is being, remedied.”
Read the article here.
All I know is that when money trickles down to the poor, it usually gets siphoned off by a middleman, or the neighborhood mafia.

Diego Maradona vs. George Bush?

The lead article in this week’s Economist: “Tired of globalisation” has a skewed view of what’s happening in Latin America. The article even takes a pot shot at Maradona (maybe they’re still upset at that “hand of god” goal in the World Cup).
Globalization cannot ignore the consequences and effects on people. This is the lesson that business never learns. That’s a fact. And so Maradona and Hugo Chavez have fun at the expense of the US.

Dragon, Tiger and Mouse: China, India and Me


A while back BusinessWeek devoted an issue to the issue of China and India.
I particularly liked “Asking The Right Questions” because it looked at new non-western business models being built in India. In India, that’s called being non-aligned!
John Hagel has an instructive blog post on China and India titled: “Patterns of Business Innovation in China and India”. Read it!
Where does this leave us? You, me, and our kids? What are we going to do for a living? What options are there for kids who go through our stellar educational system?
I decided to look up the high school curriculum in a) Kansas and b) India. Here’s what I found:
– Kansas: A Guide to Kansas Curricular Standards [high school]
– India: CBSE [12th grade] – Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Political Science, History, and more.
Looks like we lost the race before we even got started!
So, what are our kids going to be doing? Are we destined to be a nation of used-car salesmen? One nation-under-E-bay…
What would poor Ben Franklin say if he saw us now? How would he earn his living today? Join the military? Wal-Mart? a band? a gang? an evangelical church?