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Science Careers Blog

September 2011

As highlighted by our sister site Science Insider, the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers (Eurodoc) today released a report outlining the working conditions of doctoral researchers in 12 European countries (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden).

Among the most striking findings is the discrepancy in funding available to Ph.D. candidates across the various countries. Science Insider writes: 

In the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, 90% or more of doctoral students receive some form of scholarship or salary for their work. But in several other countries, 20% to 30% don't receive anything, and in Austria that percentage can rise to 46%. "We did not expect the lack of funding to be so extensive," says Karoline Holländer, a former president of Eurodoc and a co-author of the report. "Many doctoral candidates have to find other sources of income to live on."

Another surprising finding concerned doctoral candidates' perceptions of gender bias in academia. According to Science Insider:

Surprisingly, more men than women said they were at a disadvantage in academia because of their gender. In Finland, for instance, 78% of men felt that their sex was "very much" a disadvantage, whereas only 37% of women did. "We have no explanation for this," says Holländer, who adds that the next round of the survey, to be conducted in 3 to 5 years, may ask further questions on the topic.

You can read the whole Science Insider article here.

Some of the report's other interesting findings include:

  • Most early-career researchers in Norway (91%), Croatia and the Netherlands (89%), Sweden (76%), and Slovenia (73%) are given a short-term employment contract while they work toward their Ph.D.s. Other countries had relatively high percentages of doctoral researchers with no employment contracts of any kind: Austria (25%), Spain (24%), Portugal (18.5%), Finland and Germany (17%), and France and Slovenia (12%).
  • Fewer than one in 10 Ph.D. candidates were aware of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the recruitment of researchers, which outlines the roles, responsibilities, and rights of researchers and their employers. The exceptions are Spain (23% knew of them), France (14%) and Portugal (12%). 
  • Most respondents in all the countries surveyed reported having access to training courses during their doctorate programs, but a significant proportion of respondents in Portugal (38%), Germany (37%), Slovenia (32%), Croatia (23%), and Austria (21%) reported not receiving any kind of formal training.
  • In all of the countries surveyed, the majority of doctoral researchers found their supervisor supportive or very supportive. 
  • Whether doctoral candidates can put a contract on hold and get paid while on paternity/maternity leave differs widely across countries.
  • Nonetheless, many doctoral researchers feel pressured to postpone taking parental leave; Spain (18.3%), Germany (30%), and France (34.2%) showed the fewest respondents who felt such pressure.
Eurodoc presented the report at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France this afternoon. You can read the full report on the Eurodoc Web site. You can also catch up on the event on Twitter @Eurodoc: #strasbourg11.

In a speech yesterday on immigration reform, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested that current immigration policies could contribute to the loss of needed, skilled technical talent. This is from The Ticker blog at the Chronicle of Higher Education:
"Turning [foreign students who have just graduated] out of the country is, to put it bluntly, about the dumbest thing that we could possibly do," Mr. Bloomberg said in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Partnership for a New American Economy. "The fact is, there is no such thing as too many engineers, too many scientists, or too many technological innovators. We need all of them in this country."
At Science Careers, we believe in the potential of science to solve crucial problems and promote economic development more than most people do -- including, I suspect, Mayor Bloomberg. But I'm less sure about his claim that you can never have too many. Scientific careers are, among other things, economic entities -- very special ones, but economic entities nonetheless. With any economic entity, when supply and demand get too far out of wack, bad things happen; too much supply leads to falling prices -- wages in this case -- which isn't good for the profession. It's even arguable whether having too many scientists is good for the companies that employ them: Will companies benefit if science becomes a low-prestige, low-wage career? Or would they -- as I believe -- be better off it it remains a career that attracts the most capable members of our society, as well as other societies?

That's something I hope Bloomberg -- and others who believe as he does -- will consider.

Finding a suitable and sustainable career is a major challenge for new Ph.D.s not only in the United States but in nations around the world.  Thirty-five leading academic figures representing 16 countries, including such major Ph.D. producers as the U.S., China, India, Canada and Korea, have been looking for answers at the Fifth Annual Strategic Leaders Global Summit, sponsored by the Council of Graduate Schools and the University of Hong Kong.

Today they issued a statement of "Principles and Practices for Building Pathways from Graduate Schools to Careers."  Among the recommendations: graduate schools and professors should play a "key role in ensuring that students are aware of, and prepared for, a wide array of careers in the academic, public and private sectors."  To accomplish this, universities should provide students "the opportunity to develop essential transferable skills."

September 28, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

Only months ago, Felisa Wolfe-Simon was probably the most famous postdoc in the world, the lead author of perhaps the most talked about scientific paper in years.  Her work appeared liable to revise some long-understood facts about life on earth, if it was confirmed.  The bacterium she and collaborators had humorously named GFAJ-1 -- short for "give Felisa a job" -- had hurled her into an epic media and scientific maelstrom.  The combination of a dramatically publicized press conference and an immediate storm of criticism, both scientific and personal, made the young scientist the center of intense -- and generally far from friendly -- interest in both the media and scientific worlds.  

But now, "it's quite possible that my career is over," she says in an engrossing profile by Tom Clynes in the current Popular Science.  Quite apart from the validity of her research claims -- which I am utterly unqualified to evaluate -- the story of an unknown and apparently rather naïve young researcher's brutal initiation into the realities of high-profile scientific controversy is both poignant and illuminating.  

For a while it seemed that Wolfe-Simon might have captured, at an astonishingly early stage of a scientific career, the great prize that all scientists seek: a brilliant and transformative finding that appeared capable of opening vast new realms of possibility.  But soon some fellow scientists were acting toward her in ways that were "unprofessional, and at times became downright shameful," admits one of her work's early critics. 

The story isn't over yet, but what it reveals about politics and emotion in the world of high-stakes science is far from pretty.  You can read the article here.

Yesterday was definitely early-career scientists day at the White House.  In addition to the announcement of new policies at the National Science Foundation aimed at helping researchers with young families and a program to attract women to science that included a talk by First Lady Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama named the 94 winners of this year's Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers.

Termed in a White House statement the "highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers," the awards go annually to scientists distinguished for their "innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach." Significantly, though most of the winners are affiliated with universities, a sizable number work at other research organizations, such as national laboratories.

Sixteen federal agencies collaborate with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to compile each year's list.  Congratulations to all the winners on their outstanding achievements!

Today the White House and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a new effort, called the "NSF Career-Life Balance Initiative," to make research careers mesh more easily with the family lives of grant recipients -- particularly female ones.  

This appears to be very good news for women seeking to pursue academic scientific careers during their peak childbearing years.  Under the plan, researchers of both sexes will be able to delay the beginning of grants for up to a year because of the birth or adoption of a child and to suspend grants while they take parental leave.  They may also apply for funds to pay technicians to keep projects running during these leave periods.   NSF will "expressly promote these benefits" in its announcements and other publicity, according the the announcement.  

Of course, the new opportunities to spend time with family while advancing a scientific career will only work if universities also slow the tenure clock by comparable amounts of time -- and if delays don't count against people in personnel decisions.  Research has found some academics, especially at the most competitive institutions, unwilling to avail themselves of such family benefits for fear of appearing "not serious" about their careers.  It will be interesting to see whether the official NSF impirmatur for parental leave makes a difference in such attitudes.

Announcement of the initiative is part of an larger effort, which includes an event hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, to encourage girls to pursue scientific and technical careers.

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) announced on September 20  a newly rewritten and updated version of its 2006 handbook for establishing Professional Science Master's Degree programs.  Entitled Professional Science Master's: the A Council of Graduate School Guide to Establishing Programs, the new publication provides to institutions considering establishing PSM degrees the benefit of over a decade of experience with the 2-year programs that prepare students for science- and technology-based careers in industry, government, and the nonprofit sector.  The volume includes best practices based on successful programs and explains how to assess a proposed program's feasibility, how to develop and operate a program, how to seek formal affiliation with the national PSM movement, and more.

Over the past decade, over 110 universities in 31 US states and the District of Columbia,  Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom have founded a total of nearly 240 programs that together graduated more than 1,100 students in 2010.  Increasing numbers of institutions have expressed interest in starting programs of their own.  Information on ordering the manual is available here.

Have you ever wished you could put your scientific expertise to work in the field of foreign affairs by working on one of the many international issues that relate to science?  If so, and if your training is in the physics (or a related field), the American Institute of Physics (AIP) State Department Science Fellowship may be the opportunity you seek.   

AIP invites Ph.D. physical scientists who are US citizens and members of one of its ten constitutent associations to apply for the annual fellowship, which offers a year working at the State Department, a salary of $70,000, moving expenses, and health insurance.  Scientists of all ages and career levels, from early-career to senior positions are eligible and may receive sabbatical or leave-of-absence payments from an employer, if appropriate.  

The deadline is November 1.  Application information is here.

NIH today announced the 2011 crop of researchers who will receive grants from the NIH Common Fund, which aims to fund big-risk, big-reward research projects. The Common Fund will award $143.8 million this year in three categories: 13 Pioneer awards ($10.4 million), 49 New Innovator awards ($117.5 million), and 17 Transformative Research Projects awards ($15.9 million).


NIH recently issued a call for applications for next year's Pioneer and New Innovator awards (the Transformative Research Projects award budget is still under consideration for renewal). You can learn how to apply for the Pioneer award here and the New Innovator award here.

For a full list of the researchers who won this year, see the press release.http://commonfund.nih.gov/pioneer

The Laboratory Safety Institute, a non-profit organization that gives a variety of training courses in various parts of the country, is offering scholarships to school science teachers to receive lab safety training.  The awards are part of a gift from the Dow Chemical Company and the Dow Education Foundation that will also support an online LSI reference library of lab safety materials, which is projected to go live in November.  The application deadline for the scholarship is December 31.  Application information is here.

September 20, 2011

Scientific Chutzpah

Innocent graduate students and a postdoc may once again have become "collateral damage" of professorial fraud, this time in what Margaret Munro of Postmedia News terms an "unusually creative case of academic misconduct."  The Canadian scientist in question went far beyond the usual enhancement of experimental data or massaging of conclusions.   He listed entirely fictitious publications on the CV he used in an application that won a research grant from the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Canada's major federal granting agency.

With academic openings scarce in some countries but plentiful in others, would-be faculty members may consider pursuing careers abroad. For those who decide to teach in foreign lands, says Zen Parry, an Australian teaching in South Korea, the "biggest cultural surprise" may well be the students.

In an intriguing article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, he explains how the Korean education system, testing methods, family practices and means of financing college produce students with expectations, experiences, pressures, and study habits quite different from those familiar to teachers in English-speaking countries. This can lead to puzzling and disconcerting classroom interactions for the expatriate teacher. His Korean students, for example, "are very good under close supervision," Parry writes, "but they have few skills for...managing time and resources efficiently, or asking their professors questions outside of what pages to read and what questions will be asked in a quiz."  Requests to professors to change grades are common and generally granted, and students "will leave" a course that "emphasizes teamwork and collaboration," Parry adds.

The "nature of the students" is an "important factor impossible to put in ... contracts," Parry notes. That's why he advises that "professors should ask many questions about students and keep their eyes wide open before taking on an expatriate job."

September 16, 2011

Changing Campus Culture?

The Association of American Universities, whose 61 members include the major research universities of the United States and Canada, has undertaken a "five year initiative to improve the quality of undergraduate teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields at its member institutions," the group announced yesterday. 

According to a 15-page so called "discussion draft" released at the same time, 90 percent of the undergraduates who changed their intended major from STEM to non-STEM subjects "cited poor teaching as a concern."  Because the majority make the change between their freshman and sophomore years, keeping them in science will require attention to the very earliest undergraduate courses -- hardly the ones that generally rivet the attention of prominent faculty members. A good deal is known about methods that work well for undergraduate learners, the document notes, but, it frankly admits (in italics for emphasis), "Improving teaching will require cultural change" on campuses.

Rwanda, already recognized by the United Nations as East Africa's high-tech hub, is looking to boost its regional influence by partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to offer graduate degrees in engineering. Rwandan and university officials today announced the creation of Carnegie Mellon Rwanda, an academic program based in Kigali they hope will offer advanced engineering and management training, as well as international internships and job placement, primarily to students from Rwanda and its East African neighbors. It will be the first program to offer a graduate degree granted by a foreign university on African soil.

The program initially will offer a master of science degree in information technology, and more academic tracks will be added over time. A Ph.D. program has been proposed but that proposal isn't definite, says Pradeep K. Khosla, head of CMU's College of Engineering.

Carnegie Mellon Rwanda will aim to enroll approximately 40 students in its first semester in fall 2012, Khosla says, and then to raise that number to 150 by 2017. The program will use the same admission and academic standards as Carnegie Mellon's main campus in Pittsburgh. Khosla says the program will look to hire top-tier professors from all over the world, though he expects finding faculty could still be a big challenge.

But will Rwanda be prepared to offer jobs to a surge of new highly trained engineers? Khosla says that while that is indeed a concern, Rwanda is better prepared than most other African nations to do so. "Are they poised [to take advantage of the new engineers] today? Probably not," he says. "But are they on the right trajectory? I think so."

Rwanda is experiencing an economic boom, with sustained GDP growth of 8% annually over the past five years, numerous new telecom businesses, and an ambitious federal project to lay fiber-optic cable across much of the country. Khosla predicts that Rwanda's burgeoning wireless and mobile networks will see the most immediate benefit from the new engineers.

Khosla hopes Carnegie Mellon Rwanda will serve as an example to other universities, encouraging them to invest in degree-granting programs in Africa to help African nations build modern infrastructures. "There are a billion people [in Africa]," he says. "The world will not be better off if they're left behind."

There is increasing awareness that for optimum intellectual function, a balanced relationship must exist between the use of our electronic linkages and our brains. Excessive use and over-dependence on the Internet, e-mail, smartphones, and Web-enabled tablets can hinder instead of helping progress toward a successful science career.

This is a complex and contentious issue. It was addressed by Nicholas Carr, a respected technology writer, with a 2008 article in The Atlantic titled "Is Google making us stupid?" and  expanded upon in his recent book, The Shallows:  What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (W. W. Norton, 2010). Carr believes that "we are trading away the seriousness of sustained attention for the web's frantic superficiality." As a researcher, advisor, and student mentor, I see this happening in many struggling students and young scientists.

September 13, 2011

New ERC Starting Grants Awarded

On Friday, the European Research Council (ERC) announced the winners of its Starting Grants, which offer early-career investigators up to 2 million euros over 5 years to help them establish or build up their research groups at European institutions.

Now in its fourth year, the program awarded more than 670 million euros to 480 early-career researchers. This year's competition was considerably more competitive than last year's; the ERC received 42% more applications than last year (from 2873 to 4080), but funding was up just 15% -- a nice rise, but insufficient to keep up with the increase in the number of applications. The result: a 12% success rate.

The 2001 terror attack on the World Trade Center caused more than unprecedented loss of life and physical destruction on a single, terrible day. It also became a long-running public health catastrophe for the New York region, forcing countless people to breathe a toxic mix of  pulverized asbestos, concrete, plastic, metals, and many other harmful substances. Just days after the towers collapsed, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), however, confidently told the public that New York's air was safe -- an idea belied by the stench that lay over the region long afterward. A decade later, it is tragically obvious that many of those who breathed that severely polluted air have paid a heavy toll in lung disease and other illnesses.

The EPA claim had no basis in scientific fact and actually contradicted information the agency then possessed, according to the blog of Francesa Grifo, senior scientist and director of scientific integrity at the advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).  But EPA announcements, like other federal communications on scientific topics, were subject to political concerns. 

"Ten years later," Grifo writes, "federal agencies" including EPA, the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration "are now in the process of developing scientific integrity policies ... aimed at preventing similar violations of science ... in the future." Given what we now know about the health problems that followed the EPA announcement, it is "ever more essential that we hold our federal agencies accountable," she writes. Tens of thousands of citizens have commented on the proposed policies and UCS has done line-by-line analysis of the proposed policies and their drawbacks. The deadlines for public comment have passed, but you can read the policies and the analyses here.
According to a recent story in the Hartford Courant, the family of a Yale University graduate student murdered at her research lab in 2009 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university. The filing claims that "Yale had long taken inadequate steps to ensure the safety and security of women on its campus," the Courant story says. "Sexual attacks on and harassment of women at Yale had been a well-documented and long-standing problem, and there was a widespread belief that Yale repeatedly failed to impose meaningful discipline on offenders." Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that Raymond Clark, the assailant, had "previously demonstrated aggressive behavior and a violent propensity towards women."

In June, Clark was sentenced to 44 years in prison for the murder as part of a plea agreement under the Alford doctrine, which allowed him to concede that he would likely be convicted, without admitting guilt.

In a statement, Yale said that there was "no basis" for the civil suit.

Le was reported missing 2 years ago today. Her body was found stuffed inside a laboratory wall.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, Americans aspiring to scientific careers flocked to study at the great universities of Germany, then the world leaders in research. More recently, young scientific talent has flowed in the opposite direction, with the German government encouraging its best graduate students to come to the United States for a postdoctoral experience.

Germany wants its new Ph.D.s to go abroad to broaden their scientific knowledge. But once they're all trained up, Germany wants them to come home -- and many of them do. About 85% of U.S. postdocs with German Ph.D.s, and about 50% of German scientists who earned American Ph.D.s, return to Germany eventually, reports Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed. But Germany, Jaschik says, hopes to do even better.

Many studies point to a lack of representation by minorities in science and engineering fields, but the roots of that inequality are hard to trace. A new, non-peer-reviewed report finds that, contrary to the claims of some "white rights" activists, grants and scholarships are fairly evenly distributed by ratio of racial prevalence in undergraduate education. 

However, the picture changes somewhat when looking into the details. The report found that white students are significantly more likely to receive private and merit-based scholarships than are minority students, while minority students are slightly more likely to receive need-based financial aid. Since 2003, while both need-based and private scholarship funding has increased, funding for private scholarships has increased at a faster rate, suggesting that the gap between whites' and minorities' financial aid opportunities could be widening -- not good news for those looking to improve minority representation in science.

Report author Mark Kantrowitz, a stats analyst and publisher of the financial aid sites Fastweb.com and FinAid.org (which published the report), looked at data from the U.S. Department of Education's National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, which collects data every 4 years on how students pay for college. He found that minority students make up 38% of the total undergraduate population in the United States and account for 40% of need-based grant and scholarship funding -- reflecting the fact that minority students more frequently come from impoverished backgrounds than their white peers -- but only 24% of merit-based scholarships. White students, on the other hand, make up 62% of the total undergrad population and receive 59% of need-based financial aid and 76% of the merit-based funding.

That inequality doesn't reflect explicit racism, Kantrowitz argues, but instead the propensity for donors, who are more likely to be white, to offer scholarships for activities like golf, archery, equestrian sports, water sports, and winter sports, all of which tend to attract more white participants than minority participants. "The sponsors of rodeo scholarships aren't motivated by a desire to indirectly discriminate against minority students; they just like to promote rodeo," Kantrowitz writes. "But the net result is that private scholarships as a whole disproportionately select for Caucasian students."

When you combine students' total odds of receiving financial aid, the "race myth" -- that is, that minority students receive more than their fair share of financial aid -- falls apart, Kantrowitz concludes. In fact, white students come out slightly more likely overall to receive financial aid of some kind. To correct the imbalance, he writes, more money is needed for need-based grants and scholarships.

The funders of rodeo scholarships and others may not mean to promote institutional inequality, but it does add to the series of cumulative advantages that allow white students to enjoy more and better educational and career opportunities than minority students. An independent study for example recently pointed out that white applicants to the National Institutes of Health are 10 percentage points more likely to receive an R01 grant than their black counterparts. These and other studies suggest that policymakers need to take a hard look at the systems in place to find ways to put future minority scientists on more equal footing.

Hat tip to Insider Higher Ed.


At the recent annual convention of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Denver, the group's deliberative council devoted a portion of its meeting to hearing suggestions for what ACS can do to improve laboratory safety culture on the nation's campuses. The session grew out of efforts and proposals by groups within the ACS that have been working on safety issues for years. In a typically astute and informative blog post on Chemical & Engineering News, Jyllian Kemsley reports that the half hour devoted to the issue produced a wide range of ideas, from tying "faculty and adminstrator raises and contract renewal to safety performance" to encouraging TV shows and movies to show correct protective apparel and gear.

Significantly, Kemsley writes, "no one stood up either to defend academic laboratory culture or to say that ACS shouldn't get involved." One council member in fact declared that "[t]here is no college laboratory I want to work in because they're all so unsafe."

A number of suggestions involved increasing training for students, including possibly creating certification programs. Kemsley, however, sees "too much emphasis on training students and not enough on the role of faculty and administration" in taking responsibility for fostering and maintaining a strong and continuous focus on safety as a crucial element of daily life in the lab. You can read the post, including the list of more than 20 suggestions, here.



It can be hard for researchers in the economic and social sciences and humanities to know what funding opportunities are available for them within the 7th European Research Framework Programme (FP7), especially beyond the Theme 8, "Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities." The netT4society project (funded by the EU) has just released a report listing current calls in other research areas that are relevant to the socio-economic sciences and humanities; examples include health, nanosciences, and environment. The report, entitled "Opportunities for Researchers in the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities," can be found on the net4society Web site. The report will be updated each year as new funding opportunities arise in FP7 and other European Research Area initiatives.

Vitae, a U.K. organization promoting the personal and professional development of researchers, has released a podcast with highlights from the first day of the Vitae Researcher Development International Conference 2011 currently unfolding in Manchester. The event gathers research organizations, funding bodies, career development staff, and researchers to discuss policy and practice in researcher development.  

Among the news highlighted in the podcast: the Researcher Development Framework (RDF) which Vitae developed in the U.K. to help individual researchers and research institutions with their professional development is now undergoing trials across Europe as part of a project funded by the European Science Foundation. (See our previous blog entry for some quick background on the RDF).   

During the Senate subcommittee hearing on high-skilled immigration reported in this month's "Taken for Granted" column, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked witness Ron Hira, professor of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, to explain in writing for the record why his testimony differed from that of the other witnesses, especially Microsoft's general council Brad Smith. Smith had argued that the United States suffers a shortage of technical talent. Hira denied that claim, stating instead that the current unemployment rate among holders of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degrees is unusually high.

Hira now has made available to Science Careers the 8-page written reply that he sent to Grassley, which considerably strengthens his testimony at the hearing. Smith's argument, Hira wrote, depends on his assumption that economic "full-employment occurs with an unemployment rate of 5%." Since college graduates currently have an unemployment rate of 4.4%, Smith "concludes that there's a shortage" of such workers.

September 5, 2011

What Engineer Shortage?

On 1 September this blog reported on comments by Paul Ottelini, a member of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitveness, that the United States lacks sufficient numbers of engineers. That same day, in an article entitled 'Mr. President, There Is No Engineer Shortage', The Washington Post "Innovations" columnist Vivek Wadhwa, director of research at Duke University's Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization in Durham, laid out reasons why that claim is not true. 

Wadhwa's main argument will be familiar to regular readers of Science Careers: There is a conspicuous lack of what economists say is a major sign of shortage: wage rise. Except in a few specific fields, such as petroleum engineering, "salaries have not increased more than inflation over the past two decades," Wadhwa writes. 

He goes on to consider the large numbers of engineers supposedly being produced in India and China, who are often cited as a major threat to American competitiveness requiring an increase in graduates here at home. Many of these people are engineers in name only and have nothing close to the skills or intellectual preparation possessed by the products of U.S. engineering programs, Wadhwa writes. Often included in the touted figures are "auto mechanics or technicians," he continues. And in any case, only a minority of China's engineers even end up working in the profession, most becoming "bureaucrats or factory workers."

Read the full article here.

The President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness announced yesterday at a panel discussion in Portland, Oregon, that it had secured a commitment from 45 companies to double the number of engineering internship opportunities they offer by 2012. The move is part of the council's effort to train and graduate an additional 10,000 engineers from U.S. colleges and universities every year. Yesterday's announced commitments will add close to 6,300 new internships.

Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel and a member of the council, said that there simply aren't enough qualified engineers in the American workforce to meet the needs of the market. One reason so many companies are looking to relocate their R&D departments to China or India is that those nations are graduating about 10 times more engineers, making it all the more important that the United States bolster its own engineer-training programs, he said.