June 15, 2012

NRC Report on Research Universities and the Future of America

On June 14, the National Research Council published Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nation’s Prosperity and Security. This report was requested by Congress to assess the competitive position of  U.S. research universities and to respond to the question: “What are the top ten actions that Congress, the federal government, state governments, research universities, and others can take to assure the ability of the American research university to maintain the excellence in research and doctoral education needed to help the United States compete, prosper, and achieve national goals for health, energy, the environment, and security in the global community of the 21st century?”

The report recommends the following ten strategic actions that the nation should take in the next five to ten years to maintain top-quality U.S. research institutions.
  • Federal Action: Within the broader framework of U.S. innovation and R&D strategies, the federal government should adopt stable and effective policies, practices, and funding for university-performed R&D and graduate education so that the nation will have a stream of new knowledge and educated people to power our future, helping us meet national goals and ensure prosperity and security.
  • State Action: Provide greater autonomy for public research universities so that these institutions may leverage local and regional strengths to compete strategically and respond with agility to new opportunities. At the same time, restore state appropriations for higher education, including graduate education and research, to levels that allow public research universities to operate at world-class levels.
  • Strengthening Partnerships with Business: Strengthen the business role in the research partnership, facilitating the transfer of knowledge, ideas, and technology to society, and accelerate “time-to-innovation” in order to achieve our national goals.
  • Improving University Productivity: Increase university cost-effectiveness and productivity in order to provide a greater return on investment for taxpayers, philanthropists, corporations, foundations, and other research sponsors.
  • A Strategic Investment Program: Create a Strategic Investment Program that funds initiatives at research universities critical to advancing education and research in areas of key national priority.
  • Full Federal Funding of Research: The federal government and other research sponsors should strive to cover the full costs of research projects and other activities they procure from research universities in a consistent and transparent manner.
  • Reducing Regulatory Burdens: Reduce or eliminate regulations that increase administrative costs, impede research productivity, and deflect creative energy without substantially improving the research environment.
  • Reforming Graduate Education: Improve the capacity of graduate programs to attract talented students by addressing issues such as attrition rates, time-to-degree, funding, and alignment with both student career opportunities and national interests.
  • STEM Pathways for Diversity: Secure for the United States the full benefits of education for all Americans, including women and underrepresented minorities, in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.
  • International Students and Scholars: Ensure that the United States will continue to benefit strongly from the participation of international students and scholars in our research enterprise.