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U.S. Science and Engineering Research Flattens

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the height-of-the-golden-age dept.

United States 273

Invisible Pink Unicorn writes "The National Science Foundation is reporting that the number of published U.S. science and engineering articles plateaued in the 1990s, despite continued increases in funding and personnel for research and development. This came after two decades of continued growth. Since then, flattening has occurred in nearly all U.S. research disciplines and types of institutions. In contrast, Asian and EU research had significant increases in this period. They do point to one positive for the US, however: article quality. According to one of the researchers, 'the more often an article is cited by other publications, the higher quality it's believed to have. While citation is not a perfect indicator, U.S. publications are more highly cited than those from other countries.'"

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Fuck the USA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19924525)

China is the next big superpower!!

Re:Fuck the USA (3, Interesting)

Xiph (723935) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924589)

I'd make the guess that language matters more for citation than for acceptance.
Acceptance only evaluates the scientific merits, citation requires the paper to have given the citing person insight.

I'd love to see this compared with british statistics, and possibly french (since the majority of non-english journals i know are french)

Re:Fuck the USA (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924783)

You do know that we speak the same language as y'all in the UK, right? :P The citation thing does sound like a load of bunk to me, unless they check every citation in every article/paper/essay the world in all languages..?

Re:Fuck the USA (1)

Xiph (723935) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925105)

Unless you speak Danish, y'all don't speak the same language as us in the DK.

I guess my point was that I think, whether or not the language is in your primary language, matters. Then i further speculated that it matters more for Citations than it does for acceptance.

But you're right, measuring the quality of an article by the amount of citations is often useless.
Measuring by what they cite can be even worse.

Re:Fuck the USA (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925521)

Measuring citations by how often they are cited is what I was referring to, and while it is possibly a good measure of how good an article is, it doesn't tell you whether that article is any better than one done in another language..

Also (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19924533)

Almost half of researchers working in US establishments are foreign. We just don't have the homegrown talent any more.

They make cheap shit. (1)

agent (7471) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924563)

Bush with a keyboard under water.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/ [whitehouse.gov]

We always used foreign scientist/engineers (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924617)

Look at:

nuclear weapons/research: Albert Einstein and many other exiles from Europe
computers: John Von Neumann (Hungarian)
rockets and space: America's space and rocket program was kickstarted by a nucleus of German scientists after the war bought here

That is not to say we don't have our own home grown talent - just that science is an international activity and we have been lucky enough to be able to draw the best and brightest, foreign or domestic, to our country.

Whether it remains so in the long run, I am not certain - it requires an open and free country (something we're losing) and enough wealth, of course, as cutting edge science often requires funds scientists usually don't have themselves and hence the US was a good place to find patronage.

Re:We always used foreign scientist/engineers (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19925265)

Whether it remains so in the long run, I am not certain - it requires an open and free country (something we're losing) and enough wealth, of course, as cutting edge science often requires funds scientists usually don't have themselves and hence the US was a good place to find patronage.

Another factor is legal environment. In addition to the recent high profile bans on Stem Cell research, we have much stronger safety and environmental laws here. If you are willing to play fast and loose with these issues, many other nations like China, Russia, and middle eastern nations are more willing to let you imperil thousands for the chance to snag a breakthrough.

Re:We always used foreign scientist/engineers (5, Insightful)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925295)

But that is definitely changing. Corporations don't value research now. Some do - biotech is probably now the best example - but by and large, US companies are obsessed with acquisitions, splits, layoffs and wage cuts in order to provide the fastest, greatest profits to shareholders.

It is a short-sighted approach that is leading to the situation we are now finding ourselves in - Americans unable to do the work required in this technological society. As a culture we have made fun of scientists, valued the steroid-pumped athlete and the slash and burn executive. But innovators, researchers, teachers, etc - all of the professions that would have been able to prepare this country for the future - have been basically discarded.

No child left behind? How about a whole country. We are quickly becoming a third-world entity with nothing but poor and uneducated immigrants flocking here for the vision of what used to be. The people who were/are here are now unable to think critically, innovate, etc.

There are exceptions of course but this is the overall situation. Check any tech rag for an editorial - the critical shortage of US workers capable to do the jobs necessary to keep this country afloat. This is not a time to be like this. We are now dependent on foreign countries for manufacturing, energy, and a lot of raw materials. What do we bring to the table?

It seems all we bring are consumers of the crap we have to import. And that is bankrupting this country fast.

Re:We always used foreign scientist/engineers (5, Interesting)

moeinvt (851793) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925607)

"No child left behind?"

I think a major part of the problem is that the U.S. public education system has an overwhelming focus on bringing the slow learning underachievers up to par. Far too little is done to accelerate and unleash the potential of the best and brightest. Raise your hand if you were in the public education system and got all 'A' and 'B' grades while rarely or never bringing a book home with you. I susepct that most of the readers here were taking AP or college prep classes as well.

With idiotic programs like "No child left behind" the entire herd has to move at the pace of the slowest member. For example, I know an elementary school teacher that has a small group of students who are children of recent immigrants. They barely speak English, yet the school is supposed to make sure that they don't get "left behind"? Where do you think she needs to focus all of her extra effort? The phrase is emotionally pleasing, but the implementation has serious negative consequences (I HOPE they are unintended, but I'm not sure). I think that kids SHOULD be left behind a lot more frequently than they are.

I'd be in favor of getting the Federal government out of the public education system entirely. We should eliminate the Dept.of Education and distribute the entire department budget as block grants to the states for the next couple of years.

Re:We always used foreign scientist/engineers (4, Insightful)

DarenN (411219) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925815)

I've no problem with the "no child left behind" but how about a "no child slowed down" program?

Facilities in the US are good, but a lot of research seems to be funded by military sources, which some might have an objection to, and in the US the focus is far to narrow - it's on getting a marketable product ASAP. It's been reported here that because universities in the US are now responsible for their own IP, they have IP lawyers hanging around. This is not an atmosphere conducive to innovative research.

Another problem, which is a problem in the EU also, is that funding from corporations is required for most research projects. This means that any research goals have to be watered down to make them acceptable to shareholders. This is also not conducive to innovative research. Neither is the simplistic "Paper Counting" which values number of publications over anything and everything else (it's very frustrating and slows down actual work a lot).

Micheal Crichton, in a talk, suggested that companies who want to donate to research donate to an anonymous fund. They can specify in what areas it goes, but the researchers never know who donated, and the results are public. This makes more sense than the short-term profit view of companies influencing research.

An overheard teacher quote: (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19925915)

"The only way we won't leave a child behind is if this bus never leaves."

Re:Also (5, Funny)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924693)

I recently heard a excellent joke from a friend of mine who still works in scientific research:

Q: What is an American University?
A: This is a strange place where Russian professors teach Chinese students in English.

US tends to attract top researchers (5, Insightful)

golodh (893453) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924763)

As everyone knows, an important means for the US to get hold of top scientists and researchers is to attract them ... often from abroad. Just look at the engineering faculties such as those at MIT; about half of the Ph.D students are from abroad (India, China, Europe), and about one third to one half of the faculty.

The US continues to be attractive because it tends to offer the best facilities (laboratories, datasets, computers, funding) in the world. Plus it hosts some of the best researchers in the world. Taken together this of course attracts *other* very good researchers. This in turn results in articles that have a higher citation index than most. So far so good.

I believe that the US cannot realistically expect to continue to lead the world in basic scientific research. As a matter of fact, it has lost that position already in a number of fields. What I believe it *can* expect to do is to continue to lead the world in applying research and turning up with innovative products.

Why? Because part of it is cultural. People here are always willing to go out and build something for themselves, which is the essence of starting a business, and society as a whole is very much geared towards giving new ideas and new businesses a chance, weed out the failures, cherish the successes, and let those who failed try again. That's important. In e.g. Europe failure in a business venture attracts a heavy stigma. Not so in the US. In the US it's also relatively easy to hire people for a startup, and to fire them the minute things go wrong, or even if revenues are lower than expected. And last but not least ... in the US venture capitalists are thoroughly aware that they must sow ten potatoes to reap one truly outstanding venture, three reasonably ones, and perhaps six poor ones. Unless other countries can copy that, the US is at an advantage.

Now both China and India are busily trying to imitate the US in this respect, and especially China has made a lot of headway. But the US still has the lead. And to be honest ... who would want to go the China and learn Chinese when they can also go the to US and use the English they learned in school? Excepting Chinese of course. Ever tried to find your way in China? The US has a big cultural advantage when it comes to competing as a destination of choice.

The undertone of the article is a bit warning of course. Even if one were somehow able to revitalise the US primary and secondary school system *and* make it attractive for Americans to pursue a career in science and/or engineering instead of business management, law, marketing, the military, etc. etc., it would take about two decades for the results to become visible. Personally I would say that the best bet for the US is continue to do what it has traditionally been good at, which is to focus on first attracting and then absorbing those immigrant researchers and turning their research into products.

This is precisely why the US takes such an agressive stance on "Intellectual Property", and does whatever it can to make every country in the world respect US copyrights. It's of strategic importance.

This is also at the heart of the US immigration policy, which runs approximately as follows: "We want those of you if you are the best or one of the best in your field. Those we will welcome to stay, and offer the chance to join the club and become a citizen. Others will be required to enter as illegal immigrants."

It's a bit parasitic, but it works.

Re:US tends to attract top researchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19924879)

That is most correct.

US has always, and will continue to use ideas developed, or discoveries made by foreigners to make marketable products that profit itself. It is only a matter of time before everybody correctly recognizes US as the sick, money hungry, pointy haired leech that it is. It is also a matter of time that people start to recognize that US students had stopped studying the sciences and engineering since quite some time ago, opting for mindless, control hungry, money making courses such as accounting, finance, law and such.

When you think of US, think Jabba the hut.

Re:US tends to attract top researchers (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925347)

Anonymous coward, not worth it...

Re:US tends to attract top researchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19925075)

Mod parent insightful.

It is not just that you learn English in schools. Typically, you learn British English (with lessons covering UK themes) but you end up knowing much more about USA then about UK (Later on, you pick up US stereotypic view of Britain).

US has been "ameriforming" the Earth through movies, comics, music and finally internet for almost a century now. If I may add, internet generation all around the world (such as my kids) grows with US cultural background under their skins. It is their second, if not first nature. They understand untranslated jokes in US context! Frank Herbert's Missionaria Protectiva [wikipedia.org] on work at its best.

America is international arena of brainpower. You go there to find how good you are (mystical and mythical low-profile Russian Geeks [wikipedia.org] and others too shy to come over there excluded). It doesn't matter your contestants are mostly foreigners like yourself, you know they are there for glory and money just like you are.

Re:US tends to attract top researchers (0)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925289)

I believe that the US cannot realistically expect to continue to lead the world in basic scientific research [...] What I believe it *can* expect to do is to continue to lead the world in applying research and turning up with innovative products [...] This is also at the heart of the US immigration policy [...] It's a bit parasitic, but it works.

If a country isn't good at basic research, it must fix that and become good, otherwise it's going to die. Period.

The US must focus on revitalising its research, not in using basic research coming out of other countries and attracting top talent from aboard to think of new products instead of doing basic research.

I don't think the US can focus on applying research and continue trying to attract the best brains in the world. It's fundementaly contradictory. The best brains want to work on new stuff, not new applications of old stuff. There are of course bright people who focus on applications, but I believe the smartest of all enjoy engaging in things completely different and never seen before and therefore most probably in basic research.

There are economic problems with this approach as well. The US may be able to continue it for, say, 100 or 200 years, but not in the long term. You can't continue applying old research forever, at least not in a capitalist economy. Capitalist economies need to give opportunities to new entrepreneurs, but they can do so only if the economy expands. Expansion can occur with new markets, with innovation, etc. It isn't easy to continue innovating merely on applications forever, at some point you must find something completely new - ie engage in basic research. The US could use basic research coming out of other countries to think of new applications for one or two centuries, but then what? The rest of the world would change their copyright/patent laws to disallow publication of their basic research in the US, or even keep their best research completely secret, or even keeping their best researchers by force. The US would start feeling the pressure of other countries taking up researchers, so it would then try to expand with new markets instead of innovation, for example by declaring war on some countries or by changing their regimes in order to expand its borders or its export markets. This could keep going on for another 50-100 years, perhaps, depending on the strength of the US military in relation to other countries. At some point the US wouldn't be able to expand on land anymore, and fall, internal disintegration, and revolt would follow.

Furthermore, there are also military implications which require countries to engage in basic research if they want to secure their long term existence. A world power cannot sustain itself merely on its military strength or its marketing. Every world power or empire must engage in basic research in order to develop new products and new markets, and new weapons as well. Basic research often yields new military applications unthinkable before, and the first country that would be able to harness, for an example, the energy released by matter-antimatter annihilation on a massive scale would probably be able to militarily outstrength the US within a few years.

So, basic research is needed in order to keep attracting the best researchers (because that's what they actually enjoy doing), to keep the economy operating normally (for expansion), and to keep the military properly equipped to ensure the long-term existence of a world power.

If the US wants to continue being an active player in world geopolitics in the long term rather than the short term, it must keep its science output steady, and this means investing in basic research in addition to new applications. In practice, this translates to a need for guaranteed academic freedom, better education, more funding, and delicate management of any internal fundamentalist forces seeking to return the world to the dark ages again.

Re:US tends to attract top researchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19925479)

"If a country isn't good at basic research, it must fix that and become good, otherwise it's going to die. Period."

No.

And I love direct, pointed declarations like this. It's like a big sign that says "The person who wrote this is mentally retarded."

Re:US tends to attract top researchers (1)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925679)

You give no more reason for your claims than the parent that you criticize does.

Re:US tends to attract top researchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19925309)

Look, as long as kids have parents that are planning their careers they won't end up in science or engineering. And helicopter parents rule the day. Parents want to see the kids make money, lot's of it, and in a way that won't land them in anything harder than a country club prison facility. Never forget people are stupid. For a great many people in our society getting up, getting shoes tied, and to work on time is a minor miracle; a major miracle if two matching socks are involved.

The line about aggressive intellectual property stance is bunk. Protecting Mickey Mouse doesn't save our economy; he's still made in China. A SANE IP policy would help. Remember the idea for copyright lifespan is to allow protection long enough to recover creation costs and make *some* profit. Then the work is to be shared for the public good. No one gives a rats ass about the public good part of that any more since it's harder to quantify than things like the RIAA's bottom line.

Re:Also (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924777)

Almost half of researchers working in US establishments are foreign. We just don't have the homegrown talent any more.
--- ..and bearded students/scientists don't get visas anymore.

Re:Also (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924873)

US population is around 300 million people, world's is 6.6 billion. It seems reasonable to assume that the rest of the world has much more than 1/20th prevalence of talented individuals (who also get a chance to at least go to school) as US. Do you see anything wrong with some of them coming to work in famous american research facilities? Does it reflect badly on us that we don't overbreed and perhaps show a bit of ecological responsibility in an otherwise wasteful society?

Re:Also (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19924995)

Standardized testing equals standardized thought. Being as all the answers must match, there is no room for scientific method and eureka moments. Do some research on the true purposes of the American education systems, it might suprise you. There is nothing more frightening to some then a person who can think for themself.

Re:Also (4, Insightful)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925037)

Almost half of researchers working in US establishments are foreign. We just don't have the homegrown talent any more.
No, that's not it. The simple facts are
  • The top US academic institutions have the most money of any in the world, by far.
  • Money can facilitate research, and hence the top researchers tend to go where the money is (so they can accomplish the most they possibly can).
  • The US is a large country, but small compared to the entire world. Japan has almost half as many people as the US. The EU has more. Let's not forget Russia. And then there are China and India.
  • Speaking of China and India, education is rapidly increasing there, leading them to actually generate an 'industrialized nation' share of scientists proportional to their population.
Given all these factors, you shouldn't be surprised at all that the faculty at top US academic institutions are diverse. It might have nothing to do with any 'decline' of US capabilities (I'm not saying there isn't such a thing, just that this particular observation doesn't really support it).

We never did have.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19925117)

Honestly, I can't think of a single 'American' invention which wasn't actually an invention by an immigrant who only came to the US because there was more money here.

Can anyone think of a real, world-beating innovation by an American, born here, whose parents were also born here Americans? Not a 'first', like the Wright Brothers (there were a lot of people round the world working on airplanes who could just as easily have been first, so the Wrights did not 'invent' the airplane), but a totally new advance.

In my own field of electronics I'm thinking of people like Faraday or Maxwell. But you could have Wegener in Plate tectonics, or..oh, I don't know. Any ideas?
 

Re:We never did have.... (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925401)

Not a 'first', like the Wright Brothers (there were a lot of people round the world working on airplanes who could just as easily have been first, so the Wrights did not 'invent' the airplane), but a totally new advance.

Couldn't this be said for the vast majority of advancements? By your standards we'd also have to neglect just about everything Bell and Edison had ever done. I guess that makes it convenient for your argument.

So, by your own little rules tell me of advancements made by any scientist that wasn't being worked on by others at the same time? Advancement normally happens as society looks towards a common goal and various people pursue the same.

If an American researcher suddenly got cold fusion to work like a dream today you'd dismiss him as being a true innovator simply because others were working on the same technology.

Re:Also (1)

Stefanwulf (1032430) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925525)

I'm not certain we ever had the homegrown talent in the sense you mean...the US has always thrived on immigration, and a good many (if not most) of our most successful and famous scientists, artists, and engineers were either immigrants themselves or within a couple generations of arriving in the country.

Old news ? (0)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924561)

Hasn't this bit of news been floating around for months, if not years now ? Did they just find new indications ? Or are they trying to make it sink in with even the most fact-resistant people ?

Cause and Effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19924565)

This is probably a result of the disaster that was (and is) our education policy stemming from the 70s / early 80s. We are now finding generations of Americans that are ridiculously "dumbed down". If we carry on like this we'll end up like the world of Harrison Bergeron [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Cause and Effect (1, Insightful)

methano (519830) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925051)

No. It's because there are few jobs and the pay isn't so good. The employment situation for PhD chemists in the US is miserable and has been steadily getting worse for the last decade. It's because people in the US don't want to work hard enough to get a PhD and work at half the pay for an MBA who worked half as hard to get where he is, whom they suspect is only half as smart. Americans may be lazy but they ain't stupid. The people from outside the US that populate our labs didn't know that when they came. They'll soon be going home, as the wages back home rise.

Who's wondering why? (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924573)

In the US, research has first of all be "pleasant" to whoever funds it. Yes, that's true for most countries, but nowhere else you'll find as much industrial and political influence into research. Try to do a research on, say, climate change and watch the government go crazy over it should you dare to come up with results that point to us as the reason for an increase in temperature.

Add the religious side and you'll see why Europe currently feels an influx of researchers, not only from "poor" countries where they can't get funding, but also a healthy dose of quite capable people from the US who prefer to ponder what their findings mean, not to ponder what they may write should they not want to be censored. It's Reneaissance all over again, where you can find whatever you want, but if you want to remain in the good standing and be respected as a researcher, you better find what government, industry and especially media want to hear, or you'll soon find yourself being attacked and badmouthed, and your reputation ruined.

Would you want to do research in that kind of climate?

Re:Who's wondering why? (4, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924599)

Yes, that's true for most countries, but nowhere else you'll find as much industrial and political influence into research.

Actually, the more that applies to a country, the more likely that country is to go down the drain. See history books for examples.

Re:Who's wondering why? (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925239)

And here I was, trying to keep Godwin outta the argument for a change...:)

Too true, actually. You have no idea how much "research" in Germany between 34 and 45 was tied to finding "proof" that they're the superior race. Especially in history, anthropology and related studies, trying to do sensible and unbiased research was a surefire way to not only getting no money, but also often losing whatever reputation you had, while coming up with "results" that defy or outright contradicted reality were praised and rewarded.

And honestly, I feel a trend in today's "research" in some areas that matches this. Not to the same extent, by far not, but when you get funding for rather questionable and scientifically dubious projects from a research fund to "prove" some religious theory, something's going wrong.

Re:Who's wondering why? (2, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925305)

And here I was, trying to keep Godwin outta the argument for a change...:)



Just take a different example, then. The history books are still full of them even if you omit Nazi Germany.

Re:Who's wondering why? (1)

JohnBailey (1092697) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925959)

It is a pretty good example though. German archaeologists and anthropologists took a long time to be taken seriously after that. Is it any different to someone doing research on Global warming, or trying to figure out just how much oil is left while having their research funded by the big oil companies? No matter how good the research either way, there is always going to be a stain of doubt over the accuracy of their findings.

Re:Who's wondering why? (2, Interesting)

gtall (79522) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924717)

In addition to those problems, science these days is funded by business school product who have understanding of science and don't ever expect to. They won't fund anything unless you can point to an application. That means pure research isn't being funded. The result, as the article points out, is that we are leveling off in publications. No pure research is being done at the high end and hence it never gets developed into the mid and low end where the applications are. To put it another way, the mid and low end are simply rearranging the pure research deck chairs handed to us by previous generations.

It isn't just business school product that have this attitude towards pure research. A fair number of slash bots also have it. One gets the feeling they believe research is something written up in books and there isn't any reason to write any new books.

Gerry

Re:Who's wondering why? (4, Insightful)

19061969 (939279) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924999)

Excellent point, although I'm not sure it's just the business school types. Having to chase funding (many academics and scientists spend 40-50% of their time on this) doesn't help because grants are more likely to be awarded if an immediate and viable application can be demonstrated.

That means that pure research is harder to pursue because of grant competitions. It's very sad because applied research may end up only being relevant to very specific groups. Pure research can also provide some of the most startling insights into the world and create real leaps in knowledge.

I had this argument with my father: he said that a lot of scientific research is pointless and doesn't help anybody ("research for its own sake") until I pointed out the number of things that we take for granted these days that were based on theoretical research.

Re:Who's wondering why? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925241)

That's exactly what's wrong today. Try to get a grant in optic theory. The same branch of science that came up with lasers. Sure, we did't have an application for the theory of amplified light emission, but today we have lasers as targeting devices in the military and in the reading system of optical devices, i.d. CDs and DVDs. If it wasn't for the theory behind it, which had no immediate use, we'd probably still use plasic records or we'd have come up with an inferior medium to CD/DVDs.

Applied research can never come up with a variation of what already exists. If you want a revolution and a breakthrough, it is in basic research.

Re:Who's wondering why? (1)

exultavit (988075) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924769)

In the US, research has first of all be "pleasant" to whoever funds it.
Even more "pleasant combinations". I am "successful" the most. Perhaps after the biggest "party" you will understanding the Orz
and I can showing you other "levels". It is funny enough. Do not forget to "enjoy the sauce"!!!

Re:Who's wondering why? (1)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924895)

Just a thought... The fact that unpopular research is underfunded or censored may give rise to new gentleman scientists [wikipedia.org] : people who have a passion for research and possess the necessary wealth to pursue it independently. I personally believe that the best research is done when you have the means to do it independently, not as an professional researcher in a company, the government, or a university. When you research while being effectively an employee you end up focusing more on sustaining the paycheck and getting promotions, and you either publish or perish. If you can live independently and you seek answers to scientific questions you can do a much better job (provided you can get access to specialised equipment if needed) since you are motivated solely by your research, not the paycheck. Of course there are people who do work for a paycheck and yet consider their research to be of primary importance, and they would continue it even without the paycheck, but I'm afraid the majority of professional researchers don't think like that. I bet a properly equipped, motivated, and independently wealthy amateur researcher following the true spirit of the scientific method would produce results of higher quality than a professional researcher working in an institution for a paycheck, albeit the professional may outproduce in terms of quantity, with the only exception being professionals who are amateurs at heart and truly love what they do. So, although I insist that the government must fund research as much as possible, underfunding may have some positive social consequences as well. Nothing is all negative, there may be something positive in everything you consider negative. Society has a need for research, and if professionals are underfunded, then the self-motivated amateurs may arise more prominently to fill the gap. Again, I would like to repeat that underfunding is definitely not desirable, but I just wanted to show another side of it.

Re:Who's wondering why? (1)

Jamu (852752) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925201)

There are some fields where I doubt this would work, as you'd be looking for talent in too small a pool. Astronomy is a good example of amateurs doing good science, but no one would want the situation where there were only amateur astronomers. Particle physics would be dead. Theoretical physics wouldn't have the experimental results it needs, and would just be an exercise in mathematics. A lot of other pure science would die or be limited. All that would be left would be some slowly progressing pure science, and science for short-term profit.

Re:Who's wondering why? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925383)

While I'd love the idea, I doubt it can fly.

Let's first of all see how you get rich today. Let's for a moment assume that you didn't inherit it. Inherited money often causes lazyness and a general lack of drive to actually do something productive. For reference, see Paris Hilton.

To get rich today, being a researcher is probably not the best venue. A researcher's get-rich-quick scheme would probably be that of a patent, and patents rarely if ever go to researchers anymore, they belong to the company or institiution they work for.

But let's assume someone with the drive to invent and research actually gets to be rich. Next problem, a lot of the things you need for founded research aren't easy to come by. If you need radioactive or hazardous materials, your chance to get a hand on them as a private person are very slim. The same might apply to certain critical equipment that can be (ab)used for criminal means. Not to mention for some of those tools you needn't be rich, you need to be super rich to afford them.

Research ain't what it used to be in the times of Newton, Watt and Goodyear. You can't just remodel your garage into a science lab and expect to come up with something great by try and error. Those things have been done already and they're all invented. Unless you have an absolutely and completely new idea to toy with, you will probably need very expensive and very hard to get equipment.

And, given my faith in the human collective intellect, I'd guess that every possible idea has already been considered by someone.

Re:Who's wondering why? (1, Troll)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924955)

It's not only the research that is under political attack in the US. Science itself is under attack in this country like never before.

You can hear, every single day, "Science" sneered at in the same dismissive tone as "The Media" on talk radio and blogs of a certain political stripe. When someone doesn't like the results of research, they just go find some hungry grad of Regent U. who'll gin up a paper that says the opposite. The same way that when someone doesn't like what's happening in their world, they'll just say "oh, that's just The Media".

We have museums in the US with exhibits that claim that Science proves that God created the world. That's enough to discourage a real scientist right there.

When I was a little kid, being a scientist was one of the coolest things you could be. Hell, I used to play with chemistry sets so I could pretend to be a scientist. No, today "Science" is under such constant attack I'm not surprised that people would rather become consultants to some corporation or move overseas to work.

Re:Who's wondering why? (2, Insightful)

exultavit (988075) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925079)

When I was a little kid, being a scientist was one of the coolest things you could be. Hell, I used to play with chemistry sets so I could pretend to be a scientist. No, today "Science" is under such constant attack I'm not surprised that people would rather become consultants to some corporation or move overseas to work.
If chemistry sets, model rockets, and amateur astronomy have truly become unfashionable to kids, I think it would much more to do with Steve Urkel than with anything that creationists have ever done.

However, I doubt that science activities are actually strictly uncool to kids these days. The problem is that they are competing against video games, cable TV, and the internet.

Another reason (1)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925701)

Is that our government's research priorities are changing and so are its policies. There are huge amounts being spent on defense research, even in colleges, that comes with International Traffic in Arms Regulations(ITAR) strings on the money. These sorts of strings are designed to minimize and dilute the body of research in the public sphere (i mean prevent technological weapons from being exported).

The ITAR bit is just the most socially relevant of the new round of restrictions and "chilling effects" being levied on American researchers. There are others, like politics, etc. as already mentioned.

On another note, it is not true that America is the worst offender here. Try doing any research not possible in America in say, an Islamic theocracy, like Iran.

The main point is that article quantity may not be a valid measure of the amount of research occurring.

That's (0, Flamebait)

JustOK (667959) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924577)

US failing sighenc? That's umpossible.

Output of papers isn't too useful (2, Interesting)

ejito (700826) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924607)

There's still growth, the article just doesn't state exactly how much - probably ~0.65% annually, from the information given..

Anyways, as the article states, papers aren't always the best indication of actual information output. It's common practice for researchers to "recycle" papers, adding a bit of new information on top of the bulk of previous published work. It's in a researcher's best interest to limit the amount of both papers AND information, as to keep a steady stream of output (and keep their job). Tracking citation count seems more accurate in representing useful information output. It'd be even more accurate if we could somehow track actual implementation and use of the information.

Re:Output of papers isn't too useful (1, Flamebait)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924649)

Whether or not the output of papers is a useful measure the underlying changes in output must have some significance in the changing international achedemic climate.

The bit I found most interesting is the emergence of the four asian countries. The US will always have it's place at the top table but it's total pre-eminence cannot be guaranteed forever.

Re:Output of papers isn't too useful (4, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924735)

The US will always have it's place at the top table

Why is that? You're chosen by God?

This kind of attitude has been heard many times before going back through history. Ask the Brits. Or the Spanish. Or the French. Or the Chinese. Or the Iranians (yes, they too where once "at the top table"). I could go on, but you get the point I hope...

When my great grandmother was alive the Brits dominated the world as comprehensively as the USA does today.

Re:Output of papers isn't too useful (1)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924779)

Exactly my point. I'm a Brit and we're still proud of Oxford and Cambridge being world class universities - we've still got a place at the top table - and with the US's powerful economy they're not going to be shifted anytime soon - but, as we Brits had to learn, our pre-eminence was not God ordained (although we thought so at the time) and we lost out to the new economies.

Re:Output of papers isn't too useful (2, Interesting)

15Bit (940730) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924653)

Citations aren't really a great way to monitor quality either, cos each of those "recycled papers" will cite previous ones. So you should look carefully and see WHO is citing the paper, as often it will be the authors themselves citing earlier work. This is not necessarily a problem (it may be that there are very few people working in a field, and self-citation is unavoidable), but some scepticism is required.

A much better indicator of paper quality would be a weighted combination of the Journal quality (impact factor is a common measure), citation count and something like the number of different citing authors. You can probably add some other factors too.

How does funding factor in? (4, Interesting)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924655)

I wonder what it would look like if we also plotted the funding allocated to the NSF alongside the number of papers published.

The NSF has had some serious funding woes since the 90s that very well may be causing this "draught" -- I wouldn't even go as far as to completely blame it on the Bush administration either (although they certainly did contribute).

As far as physics research goes, Clinton's cancellation of the already partially-constructed SSC easily set the entire field of particle physics back by 20 or so years. The LHC, which is being constructed in Europe as its "substitute" isn't even remotely as big or powerful as the SSC was originally planned to be.

Re: How does funding factor in? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924867)

I wonder what it would look like if we also plotted the funding allocated to the NSF alongside the number of papers published.

The NSF has had some serious funding woes since the 90s that very well may be causing this "draught"
The academes that I know frequently complain that they're drowning in paperwork, in comparison to a decade ago.

Re:How does funding factor in? (2, Insightful)

gatzke (2977) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925965)

I love big physics as much as anyone, but I doubt the SSC would have significantly increased publications overall. Sure, they may find out some great fundamental information about the creation of the universe, but overall impact on society would probably be minimal. Unless the SSC could sort out time travel or make some sort of super-duper uber nuke... I doubt that anything practical or useful would come from the SSC (although some of the support technology would be practical and useful, similar to NASA impact).

NSF funding is generally quite difficult to obtain. Researchers often spend most of their time writing proposals. NSF claims high hit rates, but most areas I know of are well under 10% in reality. Assuming you are an average scientist, you have to submit ten proposals to get one funded. Usually that means one or two students for three years. If you double or triple that hit rate, you get more students and typically more publications and results. Even senior folks in my discipline are complaining about NSF hit rates; they had been funded for years and years, but now that had evaporated or diminished.

I did hear a couple of years back that NSF was going to double over the next few years. Hopefully that works out, but they may just spend it all on big physics...

From what I understand of the European systems in general, it is not quite the same. Graduate students in many cases are supported by the state. Money is given directly to the university or the "dean" and then researchers get a portion. This means they can focus more on getting papers out and developing students rather than submitting their 10-15 proposals per year.

I would like to see more industrial support, but industry in general has a much shorter horizon to look at. They want results in 3-6 months in many cases. It may take 3-6 years to get a graduate student to be truly productive. Some researchers do very well with industrial support, but in general it has diminished as well.

And as much as people lament earmarks, they come into play in the academic arena. Often an earmark is not some crazy bridge to nowhere, it is just a line-item specification in a funding bill for something reasonable. "Here DOE, here is a zillion dollars, however you need to spend a million bucks at some school on their favorite research topic." Otherwise, the program managers may just spend all their money however they want, so earmarks can steer money into projects mandated by senators and representatives rather than the government officials. Not ideal necessarily, but not super evil either.

Citation vs Language (4, Insightful)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924675)

I wonder if the higher citation rate of US articles is due to the fact they are written in English and therefore more accessible to a higher percentage of the scientific community? Presumably a lot of a country's scientific publications will be in the language of that country and it would be reasonable to assume that an article published solely in, of example, Russian or German, would be less widely cited outside the Russian or German speaking communities...

Re:Citation vs Language (1)

JanneM (7445) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924835)

That is certainly a factor. Citation rates for, say, Swedish research are substantially higher than for German, but there's no underlying reason for it to differ all that much. What does differ, however, is that swedish is a tiny language so people in science rarely publish anything in it; just about everything, from theses onwards, is done in english. Germany, by contrast, and even more so Japan, is large enough for there to be a viable german-speaking science audience so a lot of stuff gets published in that language.

Re:Citation vs Language (1)

delt0r (999393) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925249)

Working in Austria with a group that is 90% German (ie not Austrians). Everything is done in English, I'm even teaching stage I & III papers in English. Its hard to learn German because, well you don't get the practice.

Non English language research material (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19924937)

I wonder if the higher citation rate of US articles is due to the fact they are written in English and therefore more accessible to a higher percentage of the scientific community? Presumably a lot of a country's scientific publications will be in the language of that country and it would be reasonable to assume that an article published solely in, of example, Russian or German, would be less widely cited outside the Russian or German speaking communities...
This is actually a phenomenon in historical research. Over the last few decades there has been much written about various major events of the 20th century, such as WWI, WWII, the Korena and Vietnam wars etc... and most of it has been from the American/UK point of view citing mostly American/UK sources but not French/German/Japanese/Vietnamese ones since the historians who wrote this material were often unable to read these languages. Instead they often relied heavily upon abundant US/UK sources but only upon foreign sources where English translations of these were available. Unfortunately these translations were often limited in scope and accuracy. The result has been that academic flamewars have sometimes ensued when historians from these non english speaking countries started mixing in citing various sources that had never been translated into english and in the process often overturned versions of events that had previously been accepted as patriotic gospel by historians in the US and UK. To few historians seem to bother to take all sources into account before arriving at conclusions, impartial historians seem to be as rare as honest politicians.

Re:Citation vs Language (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19925041)

"I wonder if the higher citation rate of US articles is due to the fact they are written in English and therefore more accessible to a higher percentage of the scientific community?"

In most fields, that does not matter much. All good scientists in e.g. physics publish in english. What IMO matters more is that both American and European authors tend to cite american authors. The reason for that may be any of "American author did a better study", "American author did it earlier", "American author bragged more about his work", or "American author works in America".

Citations (1)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924679)

Whilst the US indeed produces many a good paper, it should not be forgotten that many of the reviewers for papers hint that inclusion of their papers in the citation list of an article might be beneficial to further the goal of acceptance of the paper. What nationality the reviewers have is something that I do not know, but the distribution might be skewed given that many good journals are published from the US.

B.

Re: Citations (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924875)

Whilst the US indeed produces many a good paper, it should not be forgotten that many of the reviewers for papers hint that inclusion of their papers in the citation list of an article might be beneficial to further the goal of acceptance of the paper
Speaking of citations, you need one for that claim.

Review is almost always done anonymously, and by reviewers who aren't assigned until the paper is received. How would you know who to suck up to?

Re: Citations (1)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925153)

I only know what my colleagues in the field of chemical engineering tell me. They know the reviewers most of the time, sometimes can even make suggestions to the journal which reviewers they might want. It might be different in other fields though.

One thing I have heard from colleagues, is that they would like to have the names of the reviewers on the final published article as well, so that the reviewers might put an extra effort in reviewing. They (colleagues) complain about badly reviewed papers.

sorry, no citations other than [1]
B.
[1] Colleagues, unpublished results.

Re: Citations (1)

Xrikcus (207545) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925367)

Easy, you look through the list of people on the conference programme committee, and see if any of them can be usefully cited.

Re: Citations (2, Informative)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925369)

Maybe in a perfect world. In the real world you know who is going to review it, simply because there is a limited number of people capable of reviewing your article, and the journals reuse the same reviewers all the time.

Re: Citations (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925961)

Review is almost always done anonymously, and by reviewers who aren't assigned until the paper is received. How would you know who to suck up to?
Typically, there are only a dozen or so people who are qualified to review a given paper. Each conference or journal will be for a particular area within a broader field, and each paper will be within a narrow specialty within this area. There will usually be one reviewer doing a general 'is this interesting to the community at large?' review, and one doing a specific 'is this novel?' review. The latter will be one of the dozen who is qualified to know the answer. Of this dozen, you can usually narrow it down to two or three who have some history with the conference / journal, and so will be asked for review. It's not 100%, but you can usually make a pretty good guess about who will be reviewing the paper, and gratuitously cite their work.

Paper acceptance these days reflects a lot more on the ability of academics to play politics than on the quality of research. I've seen papers rejected from well-respected conferences that were far more interesting and novel than several that were accepted.

My feeling is that peer review should happen after publication, not before. I believe the physics community does something like this. I would like to see any paper anyone wants to write made available online, and then commented on and ranked by others in the community. The top few papers in each field as a result of this could then be collected together and released in print.

Creationism (3, Insightful)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924685)

is flattening American brains!
That'd be why!

bias anyone? (1, Redundant)

Davediego (970976) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924691)

number of articles != quality of research performed
"'nuff said"

Re:bias anyone? (1)

tuxette (731067) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924841)

Hah! I once worked for a professer who would spew out article after article and brag about the number of articles he had published compared to the rest of the faculty. Most of the articles said pretty much the same shit...

Their "quality estimation" is totally bogus (1)

(Score.5, Interestin (865513) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924711)

According to one of the researchers, 'the more often an article is cited by other publications, the higher quality it's believed to have. While citation is not a perfect indicator, U.S. publications are more highly cited than those from other countries.'"
This "quality" measure based on citation frequency of US vs. non-US publications is totally bogus. Most of the world's IT technical publications come from the US, so anything published outside is essentially invisible except to a local audience. For example I live a long way from the US, but almost all the journals with citeable papers come from the US. Virtually the only time you see any local work is when it's been published in a US journal.

Not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19925045)

In my field (computer architecture) there are a lot of second-rate journals which can easily be cited, and show up in a lot of searches. These have a much higher percentage of foreign articles because they are not the top conferences/publications. The impression I have is that a lot of foreign countries grant tenure based purely on the number of publications, not the quality. I'd much rather have one or two in a top conference than four in second-rate journals.

Re:Not true (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#19926015)

The impression I have is that a lot of foreign countries grant tenure based purely on the number of publications, not the quality.
In the UK, the RAE system requires academics to submit one paper per year on average (actually four every four years) for evaluation. While most publish more than one paper a year, it is possible to get the top classification if you only publish one paper a year, as long as it's a sufficiently high-impact paper. The USA has much more of a focus on the number of publications than the we do.

Re:Their "quality estimation" is totally bogus (1)

LuSiDe (755770) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925741)

It is bogus, but for a different reason: They do point to one positive for the US, however: article quality. According to one of the researchers, 'the more often an article is cited by other publications, the higher quality it's believed to have. This is a classic argumentum ad populum from a so-called researcher.

more funding? (1)

totalctrl (974993) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924721)

or just inflation?

The USA has the perfect answer to this (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924737)

Enforce the broken US patent system in the rest of the world ;-) I just wonder how long it will take until the USA has to pay a lot for foreign patents. I personally give it 10 years!

Citations (4, Interesting)

jsse (254124) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924785)

We love to cite US research paper because they can be searched electronically, while the others might be required getting down to the microfilms, or worse, papers.

And yes, this is the quality that counts - the quality of storing and indexing research papers.

dumb (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19924799)

Cus Americans are stupid haha!

yes, but... (0)

tuxette (731067) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924815)

While citation is not a perfect indicator, U.S. publications are more highly cited than those from other countries.

Who are they actually citing? An American researcher? A Norwegian researcher? A Chinese researcher? Just because the article is published in a U.S. publication doesn't mean the researcher is American...

Re:yes, but... (1)

exultavit (988075) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924983)

In the context of this article, "U. S. publication" is supposed to mean "science and engineering (S&E) articles published by U.S.-based authors". For example, if a researcher is a green-card-holding Norwegian research scientist employed at a US institution, doing work supported by the US government, then the benefits of the research accrue somewhat more to the US scientific research establishment than to other countries.

So far as US research is concerned, it doesn't matter whether the individual scientists are from the US or Colombia or Italy. What you'd want to know is how much research is being done by US institutions like Berkeley or Princeton, and how much is done outside the US, at places like Oxford or l'École Polytechnique de Paris.

See the 'Methodological Issues' [nsf.gov] section of the report for more details on how the counting is defined.

It's the patent system (4, Insightful)

pieterh (196118) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924829)

The patent system is poison for research publication. I heard a remarkable comment from the EU Commission (DG Research) who were boasting that they were collecting a great patent portfolio, and only had one problem: the tendency of their researchers to publish articles, thus sabotaging the patent collection process. But, they have a solution, namely to educate researchers to publish less.

The horrid irony of it all is that the only valid basis for the patent system is to encourage people to publish in cases where they would otherwise keep precious designs secret.

There is absolutely no justification for patents in areas where people publish spontaneously. Except, of course, greed, and the lust for money above all.

Time for reform of the global patent system.

Re:It's the patent system (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924925)

Unfortunatelly, there is not only greed (and not many researchers choosed that job for the money, it would have been very silly). Most of the time, even the researchers who want their work to be available to everyone desperately need fundings to work and too many of them spend more time looking for money than to actually work because they simply couldn't work without that money, so they have to live in the grey area between selling themself and not selling their soul.

Re:It's the patent system (2, Informative)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925759)

Except you can still patent after you publish. You have 1 year in the US, and I believe that rule applies to the EU as well. It's actually better to publish ASAP so that you establish your claim before anyone else.

Re:It's the patent system (1)

John Boone (1127977) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925979)

Can be turned on its head: the problem being that no one would invest in "published" as opposed to "patented" research. And that doesn't necessarily has to be the case. Computers being one good example. Airplanes being another good example; the airplane was, of course, patented, but progress wasn't made because of the patents - it was made despite the patents.

The truth is ... (3, Interesting)

jopet (538074) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924901)

that there is no objective way to measure the quality of research. For this, one would have to know what "quality" means and already there, opinions are highly divergent. But of course the beancounters of the money-giving institutions need some yardstick and so there are and have been different yardsticks in different countries and at different times. Scientists will quickly adapt to any yardstick: if you get money and jobs by publishing a lot, they will publish a lot. If you get it by getting cited, they will get cited. If you get it by not publishing and having lots of patents or company cooperations instead, this is what will happen. None of this will ensure research though, that will advance the state of the art. Most of these regulations and rules imposed by beancounters will simply take the time and energy away from scientists who want to do research.

Ultimately, science, like art, often has to be useless to be good. In many cases however, useless science might eventually and surprisingly turn out to be quite useful indeed, practically. Take number theory: what beancounter of the world would have guessed that this esoteric branch of pure matematics would once become the fundamental force behind e-commerce, authentification and authorization systems and other applications of electronic cryptography?

More english publications (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924917)

"U.S. publications are more highly cited than those from other countries". Because they are in English and it's "the language" of science currently? I'm not saying it's main reason, but it may have some meaning. And any day I would like better publications over more publications.

Re:More english publications (1)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925657)

I suspect that you have a very good point there... and add to that if what you pointed out is true then it's most probably a self-propagating phenomenon. Consider the following
  1. You want the widest dissemination of your research (for funding, career opportunities etc).
  2. You therefor write it in english and target the largest publications which of course would be found in the largest english speaking industrialised countries.
  3. You then need to convince those doing the peer review that your paper is good enough and of course an US publication will have more US based researchers doing that review. That means if you use citations that they are very familiar with (US ones of course) your chances to get published should increase. Just makes sense everywhere in life - if you actually have something to say directly then tailor your message for the ones that you want to recieve it
  4. End result: more US based citations used and more reason for researchers to start at point 1 of this list.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics (2, Insightful)

Rsriram (51832) | more than 7 years ago | (#19924945)

This assumes that the quality of research in all papers are average. The only indicator of quality being used is citation. But the visible technological impact is derived from application of research rather than quantity or quality of research. For e.g. the country that first creates a quantum computer is going to obsolete lot of the research that is going on in the silicon world. A 1000 papers on current computer hardware might not be worth the one paper that explores application of quantum computing. How do you measure this and determine quality of research. It is highly likely that these 1000 papers have more citations as well. R&D outfits that are developing applications of quantum computing might not really spend more time on writing research papers for publishing.

University course choice is not determined by (4, Insightful)

vorlich (972710) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925049)

altruistic ideals (in the main). Young people are very practical when there own self-interest is involved. Students, especially in the USA where, according to Dr Gil Grissom, the degree is worth $1 million and almost costs $1 million, tend to choose course that will provide a cost benefit appropriate to their needs. They need to pass a course and be awarded a degree worth having (in relative terms).
In the past a degree in law was the opportunity to earn high salaries. Now of course there are far too many lawyers and not enough cases to supply them. Science and engineering degrees are not as popular, perhaps because some work involving measurement, assesment and being able to look up a book or a dictionary using all of the letters of the alphabet is a requisite.
Degree courses go through fads, witness the number of marketing graduates in the late 80's early 90's most of whom are not employed with a stone's throw of any marketing activity. Science is presently akin to magic and prospective students are surprised to discover that membership of Slytherin, is not part of the enrolment procedure. Nor are they given a magic wand or a tricorder along with the university calendar. The necessity to provide some evidence of achievement in the form of science papers and test results is a pale shadow to the ease of making an extended exposition on man's obsession with himself in lawyer school. Thank goodness there is no stand alone course concept in Web Design - lecturing staff would be crushed in the stampede as so many students (when asked to express a preference) often suggest that they intend a career in PR (the discipline of mixing a rather tasty Bucks Fizz.) or Web design. When you are paying for your education by working in The Golden Arches or as an exotic dancer, it becomes rather important to you, to choose a career path that you expect to be rewarding, at least in the financial sense if nothing else.

US Edumacation Systeme (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19925057)

The education system in the US was watered down starting in the 60's. It became politically incorrect to flunk anyone, so standards were lowered. Just look at the current administration, a product of the 60's. In the US, athletes are idolized whereas those interested in science are labeled GEEKS and outcasts. How much does a good scientist make? How much does a good athlete make? There's the answer.

Re:US Edumacation Systeme (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19925253)

How much does a good scientist make? How much does a good athlete make?

How much does the median scientist/athlete make?

Re:US Edumacation Systeme (2, Insightful)

Wiarumas (919682) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925385)

If a person was capable of being both, I would assume he would be smart enough to realize the probability of being an athlete is very low so investing time into education (even if its a backup plan) would be a smart move.

Immigration Issues (2, Interesting)

widman (1107617) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925303)

Even the 50s were better on treating foreign teachers and researchers. Now you get, with a lot of luck, a non-citizen Green Card. You are constantly bullied by random uneducated locals. And, if you are lucky there are many others in your same situation around you, you end up in a virtual ghetto. F*** that. Europe has it's priorities better now. USA lost it. Go build your racist and unfair wall to keep off the real native North Americans from their own land (check the "Mexican War".) Mod me down if it touches your right-wing heart. But that doesn't make truth go away. Read the title.

Isn't it a good thing? (4, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925523)

I am surprised most sloshdotters assume the reduction of science and engg research in USA can be explained in purely Darwinian terms like scientists migrating to where they like to work, competition to get name recognition, commercial rewards, the weeding out and selection based on such rewards. Nothing could be farther from the Truth, (capitalization is intentional).

It is best explained in Intelligent Design paradigm. We the clergy have been intelligently molding the public opinion against all knowledge in general and science in particular. Let us not forget that we were banished from the Garden of Eden because we tasted the Fruit of Knowledge. We have already convinced 55% of America that Evolution is a hoax. Pretty soon we will have the other 45% too. Then it is party party party time for us. We will tell everyone what they should do and how they should live and we get 10% of their paychecks. And much more than 10% from the sinners, by selling them indulgences!

The pagan, nature worshipping, Linux running, Open Standards promoting, Microsoft bashing, Apple fanboiing slashdotters might think it is a bad thing. But they are the minority. We are the majority. We will use their own Democracy to steal the nation from them! That will teach them.

Language bias. (1)

delire (809063) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925683)

While citation is not a perfect indicator, U.S. publications are more highly cited than those from other countries.
What language base are they using to determine such a value? English no doubt. Are they counting papers in Spanish, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, French or Chinese? English is the third most spoken language on Earth after Spanish. America, where this research was performed, is the largest English speaking country. Go figure.

There are many more people in Europe than in America and each country of which has it's own rich R&D culture. Papers that are not part of a Ph.D will probably be translated into English and published if accepted into an important conference, intended to be sold, or otherwise considered very important research. British English is considered the official language of the EU and while EU-wide R&D collaborations will often be performed in English, a huge proportion will go 'under the radar' of 'The National Science Foundation'.

Re:Language bias: I disagree (1)

slashbart (316113) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925991)

I disagree

I am Dutch, but if I had an important science or tech paper to write, I'd definitely try to get it into one of the international magazines, all of them in English. If I cannot get accepted in them, I might try to go for one of the Dutch language papers (are there any?). By limiting myself to those reading my own language, I pretty much automatically put myself in the lower tier of researchers, unable to compete on the world level.

Over a century ago it used to be French for science (or German if you were a physicist). Right now it's English.

This is a network effect, not a sign of quality (3, Interesting)

budGibson (18631) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925905)

The statistic they're citing, number of citations, is the same statistic that underlies page rank. As we've discovered from the industry that has grown up trying to game google search rankings, being well connected by citations is really only a sign that you are well connected.

In a system where your prestige depends on being connected to well connected others, being among the first to be connected has its advantages. Others will want to be connected to you in order to show that they are also connected. It should be noted that after WWII, the US was really alone in the western research world. It's still accruing benefits from that.

I wouldn't be soothed by the citation statistic. At this juncture, it's an historical artifact.

And when the quality falls... (2, Insightful)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925949)

...they'll find another self-serving dubious metric to avoid facing the truth.

"U. S. research articles consistently rated higher than European articles on the Flesch Reading Ease scale."

"U. S. research articles have been shown to be higher in 'eyeball stickiness.' Readers spend more time per page, go back and read each page more often, and 'click through' to generate more reprint requests than European articles."

"The NAS reported that although U. S. research failed to meet all eighteen of its benchmarks, it had made satisfactory progress toward achieving eight of them."

One can only cite what one knows ... (1)

brdsutte (576841) | more than 7 years ago | (#19925973)

Overall, non-Americans are less geocentric and hence know the American literature better. Being a European computer scientist, I know for a fact that on average, European researchers know the American literature (ACM proceedings and transactions, for example) much better than the Americans know the European literature (as published by, e.g., Springer). Surely there is also a difference in quality, but one can simply not cite what one does not know.

Less education emphasis on Science (5, Insightful)

chipotlehero (982154) | more than 7 years ago | (#19926009)

I go to a top 5 engineering school. Even there the emphasis is less and less on the actual science and more on business and so called leadership skills. People are being trained less in hard science and more in corporate ways. If you take an engineering class, from my experience, half the people don't care about being an engineer and want to get their MBA and be a manager and "make money".

Until we get rid of this crap that "The business of America is business" this will not change and we will continue to lose ground on the science front.
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