Every month, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN—the longest-running magazine in the U.S. and an authoritative voice in science, technology and innovation—provides insight into scientific topics that affect our daily lives and capture our imagination, establishing the vital bridge between science and public policy.
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STATE OF THE WORLD'S SCIENCE
• The U.S. should replicate Germany’s approach to boost its economy through championing its manufacturing sector. President Barack Obama’s proposed $1-billion National Network for Manufacturing Innovation follows the model of the German Fraunhofer Society. If approved by Congress, a public-private partnership will put in place up to 15 manufacturing centers around the country. Funding is only established for the first four years, which may not be long enough for the best manufacturing companies and researchers to commit to serious projects. See: Why Germany Still Makes Things
• As China is making its way up the science and technology ladder, it is creating an intellectual gap between its elite institutions and the rest of the academic enterprises in the country. Its focus on 39 key universities, with $15 billion in additional funding, is paying off, but it needs to instill consistent standards, a commitment to basic research, academic freedom, reasonable salaries and transparency. See: Can China Keep Rising?
• The U.S. dominates global science, ranking first worldwide according to papers published in top science journals, patents issued, expenditures made on research and development, and the number of science and engineering doctoral degrees awarded. Germany, Japan, the U.K., Canada and France are also near the top of the rankings, as expected. China is catching up on research papers (No. 3) and expenditures (No. 2). South Korea and Taiwan perform much more strongly in patents issued (No. 3 and 5, respectively) than is reflected in their ranking by research papers. See: The World’s Best Countries in Science
• Resources devoted to research in universities—more than 0.3 percent of GDP annually—are an integral part of the U.S.’s reputation for excellent academic institutions that produce strong science. These resources also affect universities’ abilities to attract and retain the best talent. Faculty members in the U.S. earn more than their counterparts in Europe, and universities in the U.S. have greater leeway to reward high performance and productivity with higher salaries. Pay differentials may encourage productivity, but the pay inequality between private and public institutions has grown significantly in recent years. See: The Other 1 Percent
• Students who are already predisposed toward science and math benefit from the teaching of STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) subjects. To engage a generation of hyperconnected, multitasking visual learners, science teachers should adopt technologies that help students master broad knowledge from interrelated disciplines. At some universities several attempts to reconceive how science and technology are organized into disciplines have had positive outcomes. The academic community should pursue transdisciplinary teaching, research and creative excellence, focused on the major challenges of our time. See: Citizen Science U
• Seasonal flu causes 36,000 deaths every year in the U.S. and costs more than $10 billion. Studies have shown that immunizing children is the best way to protect the community; including the elderly, who are often the focus of inoculation campaigns. See: Forum: Target the Super-Spreaders