can repeat the question, but am I bright enough to ask it?"
...it is essential to realize that behind the many pressing scientific issues facing our Nation today, one stands out far among the rest: The persistent decline for several years in the past, and into the foreseeable future, of the very health of the scientific/technological workforce of America.
1) As the non-partisan Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable determined by consensus a few days ago, the number and quality of American S&E workers is dropping precipitously—with over 50 percent of federal S&E workers expected to retire within the next ten years, with U.S. production of scientists decreasing since the 1990s (in part because of the long-term decline, in real $ and as a fraction of GDP, in federal funding for true research, except for biology). As the American Physical Society Science News of December 2002 stresses, "Overall, the number of PhD students in science and engineering is at a 50-year low, and there is little sign of a turn-about." To make up for the low enrollment of U.S. citizens, that of "foreign students, in particular, ballooned in the '80s and '90s," and continues to do so—with many major university science departments now having half or more of their graduate students recruited from foreign countries—students which in large numbers return to their home countries after graduation.
unrelated to the first point is—with few great exceptions—the
deplorable state of science/technology/mathematics knowledge and teaching
in K-12 classes, and even in U.S. colleges, where now only about 30%
of them require even one hour of science instruction for graduation.
In April 1983, just twenty years ago, the National Commission on Excellence
in Education published its unanimous report on American schools, titled
"A Nation at Risk." Its five main recommendations were endorsed, in
several public addresses, by President Reagan. To a small degree, these
recommendations, and others like them, were adopted by some Governors
and schools. But in fact the performance, on average, of America's students
is still painfully poor, not only in science and not only with respect
to international comparisons with students in other main industrial
nations. The Nation is still at risk.