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India, or dozens of other nations whose economies are growing. This has been aptly referred to as “the Death of Distance.”


The National Academies was asked by Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Jeff Bingaman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, with endorsement by Representative Sherwood Boehlert and Representative Bart Gordon of the House Committee on Science, to respond to the following questions:

What are the top 10 actions, in priority order, that federal policymakers could take to enhance the science and technology enterprise so that the United States can successfully compete, prosper, and be secure in the global community of the 21st century? What strategy, with several concrete steps, could be used to implement each of those actions?

The National Academies created the Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century to respond to this request. The charge constitutes a challenge both daunting and exhilarating: to recommend to the nation specific steps that can best strengthen the quality of life in America—our prosperity, our health, and our security. The committee has been cautious in its analysis of information. The available information is only partly adequate for the committee’s needs. In addition, the time allotted to develop the report (10 weeks from the time of the committee’s first gathering to report release) limited the ability of the committee to conduct an exhaustive analysis. Even if unlimited time were available, definitive analyses on many issues are not possible given the uncertainties involved.2

This report reflects the consensus views and judgment of the committee members. Although the committee consists of leaders in academe, industry, and government—including several current and former industry chief executive officers, university presidents, researchers (including three Nobel prize winners), and former presidential appointees—the array of topics and policies covered is so broad that it was not possible to assemble a committee of 20 members with direct expertise in each relevant area. Because of those limitations, the committee has relied heavily on the judgment of many experts in the study’s focus groups, additional consultations via e-mail and telephone with other experts, and an unusually large panel of reviewers.


Since the prepublication version of the report was released in October, certain changes have been made to correct editorial and factual errors, add relevant examples and indicators, and ensure consistency among sections of the report. Although modifications have been made to the text, the recommendations remain unchanged, except for a few corrections, which have been footnoted.

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