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Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Two Years Later


In October 2005 the National Academies released a report that New York
Times columnist Thomas L. Freidman called “a new New Deal urgently
called for by our times.” Written by a nonpartisan committee of business
leaders, university presidents, and prominent scholars, including three
Nobel Prize winners, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and
Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future urged the United States
to make the investments needed to “compete, prosper, and be secure in
the global community of the 21st century.”

On April 29, 2008, about 500 representatives of business, government,
and academia met in Washington, D.C., to review the efforts taken to
achieve the goals laid out in Rising Above the Gathering Storm. The
convocation was organized by the National Academy of Sciences, National
Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine with support from the
National Math and Science Initiative. “A number of significant events
have taken place since the Gathering Storm report was released,” said
Norman Augustine, who chaired the committee that wrote the report.
Unfortunately, he added, most of those positive events have occurred in
other countries. Governments around the world are boosting their support
of science and engineering research, invigorating precollege science and
math education, and investing in institutions of higher education.
Meanwhile, the United States has made little progress in strengthening
its education, research, and innovation systems. “It would be a cruel
outcome if the Gathering Storm report were to motivate others to become
more competitive while we did little,” said Augustine.

…Discussion at the convocation focused primarily on U.S. priorities
and the federal policy context. The following summary reports the main
themes that emerged from the presentations and discussion sessions at
the convocation. After a brief overview of the initial reception of the
Gathering Storm report, the summary is organized around the report’s
four major recommendations. While progress has occurred in each of the
four areas, many key steps have yet to be taken. “Competitiveness is
very much on the agenda,” said Augustine. “The problem is to convert
that interest into action.”