The «Research Universities and the Future of America: 10 Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nation’s Prosperity and Security» report was published recently, the authors of which analyzed the state of research universities in the USA, forecasted the roles these entities will play over the next 10-20 years, and proposed necessary measures that have to be taken, in order to strengthen the role of research universities in the implementation of the strategic goals of the country’s social and economic development.
The report indicates that innovation is a motivational force for economic growth, the creation of new types of economic activity and jobs, improving living standards in both the USA and throughout the world. The authors of the document focus their attention on the fact that the main sources of new knowledge and talented graduates, who can apply this knowledge in order to attain national goals, are research universities.
These institutions have significant support from the national government, work in partnership with American business and are respected in society due to the high quality of education and research. At the same time, the materials of the report indicate that now, research universities are facing many challenges: economic and demographic problems, global competition, and the constant appearance of new technologies.
The authors stress that even when other countries follow the experience of the USA in the establishment of research universities, the partiality of the American government to stable and productive partnerships with them has weakened somewhat in recent times. In 2009, expressing concern that the nation’s universities are at risk, Senators A. Lamar, B. Mikulski and members of the House of Representatives, B. Gordon and R. Hall, asked the National Academies to assess the competitive position of America’s research universities, both public and private, and to respond to the following 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 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?»
In response, the National Research Council convened a committee of individuals who are leaders in academia industry, government and national laboratories. The resulting report states that US research universities can be better prepared for the implementation of national ideas, if these institutions become more productive and innovative, they will be guaranteed necessary resources and will work creatively in partnership with business. To strengthen such cooperation, the authors of the document recommend that federal and state governments, research universities, business and industry to take the following measures:
- Within the broader framework of US innovation and research and development strategies, the federal government should adopt stable and effective policies, practices and funding for university-performed research and development, and graduate education so that the nation will have a stream of new knowledge and educated people to power the future, helping the country to meet national goals and ensure prosperity and security.
- 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 level that allow public research universities to operate at world class levels.
- 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 national goals.
- Increase university cost-effectiveness and productivity in order to provide a greater return on investment for taxpayers, philanthropists, corporations, foundations and other research sponsors.
- Create a «Strategic Investment Program» that funds initiatives at research universities, critical to advancing education and research in areas of key national priorities.
- 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.
- Reduce or eliminate regulations that increase administrative costs, impede productivity and deflect creative energy without substantially improving the research environment.
- Improve the capacity of graduate programmes 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.
- Secure the full benefits of education for all Americans, including women and underrepresented minorities in science, mathematics, engineering and technology.
- Ensure that the United States will continue to benefit strongly from the participation of international students and scholars in research activities.
The authors of the report stress the necessity for the revival and strengthening of the unique partnership between the nation’s research universities and the federal government, business and industry, which dates back to 1862, when the US Congress approved a special document – the Morill Land-Grant Act, which stimulated such cooperation. It also notes that although the recommendations require significant, increased productivity and investments on the part of each member of the research partnership, however their implementation can generate significant returns for a stronger future America.
Prepared based on the following materials: Research University and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nation’s Prosperity and Security.