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Gen. Spence (Sam) M. Armstrong, NASA Headquarters Coalition of the Concerned for the Vitality of the Science and Engineering Workforce As a result of the October 2001 Government-University-Industry Re- search Roundtable (GUIRR) session on SUE workforce issues there was a consensus among many of the attendees that some further work needed to be done prior to the next (GUIRR) session in the spring. I took the initiative to contact some of the individuals who had expressed an interest in work- ing the issue. Representatives from the following organizations agreed to participate in what we later termed "The Coalition of the Concerned about the Future of the U.S. SHE Workforce": Department of Defense (DOD), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Science Foun- dation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Transpor- tation (DOT), Department of Energy (DOE), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), NASA, Boeing, QUALCOMM, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The GUIRR hosted a luncheon for the Coali- tion in lanuary where the initial planning occurred. It was decided that the Coalition needed to sharpen its focus on what might be done so as to get some action going. The consensus of the Coali- tion was that the most immediate impact would be to somehow decrease the dropout rate of undergraduate science and engineering majors. Each of the federal participants was asked to develop a two-page summary of two of their programs that they thought was effective in decreasing the dropout rate. Interestingly enough, the agencies realized that they were not always aware of the efforts of other agencies, so this initial task shed some light on the issue. A summary of the Coalition's activities was pre- sented at the March 2002 GUIRR session. ~$
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Other organizations were discovered to have similar interests, and they were invited to participate in the Coalition. They were Office of Sci- ence and Technology Policy, Office of Personnel Management, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Project Kaleidoscope, BEST, The Sloan Foundation, The National Bureau of Economic Research, and Space Day Foundation. In subsequent luncheons (4) and telecoms (2), other sugges- tions surfaced. One was that internships had been proven to decrease the dropout rate of undergraduates. They gave the undergraduates an oppor- tunity to do some "hands on" work. Plus, working with a scientist or an engineer provided a mentoring environment. Some research was undertaken to determine how readily available these internship opportunities were to undergraduates. Some success was achieved using Google and Yahoo!, but it was recognized that some agency opportunities were not reachable via these major search engines. This research was done by a NASA summer intern who compiled a four- page list of URLs that contained internship opportunities and that were deemed to be only a partial inventory. Several members of the Coalition and GUIRR visited the Employment Services Division of OPM to see if they could be of assistance. The visit resulted in a presentation at the September luncheon by OPM on the posting capabilities that they had. Their USA.IOBS site that auto- matically listed every federal job posting was heavily accessed. By com- parison, the site where they posted student opportunities such as intern- ship was very lightly accessed. This difference was explained by the fact that agencies were responsible for submitting these opportunities and they were not keeping their listings current. OPM was asked by the Coalition to take a more active part by eventually creating a Web portal that listed every opportunity, not just the federal ones. The Coalition is in recess until the results of the Summit are known. The role of the Coalition from that point forward will then be determined. It could conceivably be greatly enlarged by the inclusion of Summit par- ticipants. It could also take on a more intense set of activities, again de- pending on the Summit output. I have concluded that there are many great initiatives across the coun- try that are important in working on the SHE issues. BEST calls them "Ex- emplars." However, the fact is that we are still experiencing a decline in the production of U.S. citizens in the physical sciences and engineering despite these noble efforts. Given this situation, how do we make a more significant impact across the country? My recommendation is that we do a systems engineering analysis of the SHE education function at all levels. This will be difficult because there are so many subsystems involved. For instance, there is a motivational subsystem and an economic cycle sub-
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PAN-~CANIZAHONAL SUMMIT system, and it will not be easy to determine how these subsystems might affect the others within the overall system. With a systems engineering analysis completed a model can be con- structed. It is unlikely that the model can have the fidelity associated with the systems engineering of the International Space Station, for example, but the premise is that an analysis based upon qualitative judgments is better than no analysis at all. All of the initiatives, surely including the "Exem- plars," would be fed into the model. The metrics developed with the model will identify the overall impact of each initiative on the subsystems and the overall system, which should provide decision makers at all levels with an understanding of where more effort will have an impact.
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