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'US losing scientific edge'

May 03, 2004 14:02 IST

The United States is losing its worldwide dominance in critical areas of science and innovation, reports the New York Times.

Federal and private experts point to strong evidence like prizes awarded to Americans and the number of papers in major professional journals to indicate foreign advances in basic science which now often rival or even exceed America's, the paper said.

'The rest of the world is catching up,' the article quoted John E. Jankowski, a senior analyst at the National Science Foundation, the federal agency that tracks science trends, as saying. 'Science excellence is no longer the domain of just the US.'

While this expanding knowledge base was likely to speed up and invigorate scientific advances in the fights against disease and environmental degradation, profits from the breakthroughs are likely to stay overseas, the article said.  The US 'will face competition for things like hiring scientific talent and getting space to showcase its work in top journals,' it said. 

The article points to the declining number of American industrial patents, published research and a drop in Nobel prizes won by Americans, who used to dominate the list from the 60's to the 90s.

A European Commission study last year said Europe surpassed the United States in the mid-1990's as the world's largest producer of scientific literature.

Other experts worry over the accelerating loss of quality scientists in the US. The visa restrictions following 9/11 have added to that loss.

'The drop in foreign students, the apparently declining interest of young Americans in science careers and the aging of the technical work force were, taken together, a perilous combination of developments,' the Times quotes Shirley Ann Jackson, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as saying.  

'We are in a new world, and it's increasingly going to be dominated by countries other than the United States,' said  Denis Simon, Dean of Management and Technology at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  

'We stand at a pivotal moment,' Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader, is quoted as saying at recent seminar organised by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "For all our past successes, there are disturbing signs that America's dominant position in the scientific world is being shaken."

"Who," asked Shirley Ann Jackson, "will do the science of this millennium?"