US must take steps to attract the best international scientists, argues new report

May 13, 2005

Brussels, 12 May 2005

In light of the increased global competition for top-level students and researchers, a comprehensive effort is needed to attract the best to the US, according to a new report by the National Academies.

The report emphasises the increasingly important contribution of international scholars to the national economy in recent decades. In 1966, only 23 per cent of science and engineering doctorates in the US were foreign-born, but by 2000 that figure had risen to 39 per cent.

However, the report notes that: 'Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, changes in US visa and immigration policies have affected every stage of the visa application process for foreign graduate students and postdocs in science and engineering.'

Although they acknowledge that the federal government has taken some steps to improve certain procedures, the report's authors would like to see more streamlining being done. For example, they believe that the time extensions that some international scholars have been granted before they must renew their security clearances should be extended to academics from all countries, and that new categories of visas should be created for visiting academics coming to the US for education and training programmes, short-term research projects or scientific meetings.

The report also calls for a study to explore which policies and programmes would help the United States to attract the best international graduate students and researchers. US universities are urged to continue offering fellowships and assistantships that encourage international enrolments, as well as provide adequate support services.

Currently in the US, information on the international science and engineering workforce is not collected in a systematic fashion. Finally, therefore, the report calls for improved data on the demographics, working conditions and career progression of foreign researchers in the United States.

The report was sponsored by the National Academies, along with the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. The National Academies are private, non-profit institutions with a charter to provide science, technology and health policy advice to the US Congress.

To read the full report, please consult the following web address:
http:///www.nap.edu/books/0309096138/html /

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