. "7 What Actions Should America Take in Science and Engineering Higher Education to Remain Prosperous in the 21st Century?." Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007.
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Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future
information-technology industry, for example, has continuing difficulty in matching worker skills and employer demand. The consequence is that employers cite worker shortages even when there is relatively high unemployment. That mismatch can be remedied by encouraging companies to invest in retraining capable employees whose skills have become obsolete as the technology landscape changes.
ACTION C-4: IMPROVE VISA PROCESSING
The federal government should continue to improve visa processing forinternational students and scholars to provide less complex procedures, andcontinue to make improvements on such issues as visa categories and duration, travel for scientific meetings, the technology alert list, reciprocity agreements, and changes in status.
Since 9/11, the nation has struggled to improve security by more closely screening international visitors, students, and workers. The federal government is now also considering tightening controls on the access that international students and researchers have to technical information and equipment. One consequence is that fewer of the best international scientists and engineers are able to come to the United States, and if they do enter the United States, their intellectual and geographic mobility is curtailed.
The post-9/11 approach fosters an image of the United States as a less than welcoming place for foreign scholars. At the same time, the home nations of many potential immigrants—such as China, India, Taiwan, and South Korea—are strengthening their own technology industries and universities and offering jobs and incentives to lure scientists and engineers to return to their nations of birth. Other countries have taken advantage of our tightened restrictions to open their doors more widely, and they recruit many who might otherwise have come to the United States to study or conduct research.
A growing challenge for policy-makers is to reconcile security needs with the flow of people and information from abroad. Restrictions on access to information and technology—much of it already freely available—could undermine the fundamental research that benefits so greatly from international participation. One must be particularly vigilant to ensure that thoughtful, high-level directives concerning homeland security are not unnecessarily amplified by administrators who focus on short-term safety while unintentionally weakening long-term overall national security. Any marginal benefits in the security arena have to be weighed against the ability of national research facilities to carry out unclassified, basic research and the ability of private companies with federal contracts to remain internationally competitive. An unbalanced increase in security will erode the