Making the Case for Engineering Study and Recommendations



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NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION


Directorate for Engineering

Making the Case for Engineering

Study and Recommendations




An opportunity to improve and better position engineering to ensure that innovation continues to improve our safety, health, and economic prosperity.”

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Email: engcase@nsf.gov



Making the Case for Engineering




Contents Page


I. Introduction 3

II. Charge to Task Force and Methodology 7

III. Executive Summary 8

IV. Building Public Support for Engineering 9


  1. The Current State of Public Understanding 11

  2. Conclusions 16

VI. Recommendations and Action Plan 17

VII. Next Steps 21

VIII. References 22


Appendix Documents Attached to this Document

1. Get ENG’s Communities Involved 24

2. Better Focus ENG’s Portfolio 27

3. Partnerships 29

4. Effectively Serving the Engineering Community 31

5. NAE Study 35

Appendix Documents Available on Public ENG Drive

1. PowerPoint Slides

2. Survey NSF, PD, Outside Communities

3. Brown Bag Lunch Minutes and Presentation by Marshall Lih

4. NAE Proposal on Messaging




CASE Task Group

Cheryl Albus

Fil Bartoli

Charles Blue

Ken Chong (Chair)

Delcie Durham

Darren Dutterer

Bruce Hamilton

Sue Kemnitzer

Glenn Larsen (Secretary)

I. Introduction: Engineering Innovation
Throughout the last century, the United States has remained the world leader in basic research and innovation.
Over that time, bold investments have catalyzed our nation’s capacity to innovate, producing remarkable advances in communications, health care, information technology, transportation, and infrastructure. These innovations continue to improve our quality of life.
As we move through the 21st century, engineering innovation will continue to be of unmatched value to our nation, particularly in areas of security, job creation, and environmental stewardship.
The National Science Foundation (NSF), through its Directorate for Engineering (ENG), is a major contributor to advancing engineering innovation in the United States. ENG does this by serving as the principal source of federal funding for university-based fundamental engineering research, providing over 42 percent of the total federal support in this area. ENG also focuses its investments in critically important areas for today's needs—such as nanotechnology, bioengineering, information and communication systems, homeland security, environment and earthquake engineering, smart and engineered materials, sensors and control systems, and manufacturing frontiers. ENG also supports the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs, which address important scientific, engineering, or science/engineering education problems.
To ensure the continued pace of engineering innovation, ENG also invests in the development of a U.S. engineering and technical workforce to maintain leadership in an increasingly competitive global environment.
The ability of the United States to retain this preeminence in innovation, however, is not guaranteed. Current and projected federal budgets suggest a flat or even declining trend in funding for non-medical science and engineering research. While other nations -- particularly China, India, Japan and the European Union -- are increasing their investments in these vital areas.
The impact of these disparities is compounded by the fact that the public – whose support is mandatory for a national environment that fosters innovation – does not adequately understand the role of engineering in advancing our nation.
To address this concern, John Brighton, the NSF Assistant Director for Engineering, established a task force to "Make the Case" for engineering in August 2004 to highlight the importance of engineering innovation, and its role and impact on the U.S. economy, national security, and quality of life.
E
Greatest Engineering Achievements CNN/Lemelson MIT

of the 20th Century[NAE 2001] Top 25 Innovations

1. Electrification 1. The Internet 21. Nanotechnology

2. Automobile 2. Cell Phones 22. Flash Memory

3. Airplane 3. Personal Computers 23. Voice Mail

4. Water Supply and Distribution 4. Fiber Optics 24. Modern Hearing Aids

5. Electronics 5. E-Mail 25. Short-Range, High

6. Radio and Television 6. Commercialized GPS Frequency Radio

7. Agricultural Mechanization 7. Portable Computers

8. Computers 8. Memory Storage Disks

9. Telephone 9. Consumer Level Digital Camera

10. Air Conditioning and Refrigeration 10. Radio Frequency ID Tags

11. Highways 11. MEMS

12. Spacecraft 12. DNA Fingerprinting

13. Internet 13. Airbags

14. Imaging 14. ATMs

15. Household Appliances 15. Advanced Batteries

16. Health Technologies 16. Hybrid Cars

17. Petroleum and Petrochemical Technologies 17. OLEDs

18. Laser and Fiber Optics 18. Display Panels

19. Nuclear Technologies 19. HDTV

20. High-performance Materials 20. Space Shuttle
Figure 1
NG and the engineering community face major hurdles in accomplishing this goal. One of the greatest obstacles is the “disconnect” between engineering innovations and the people who use, rely on, and prosper because of them. Additionally, research demonstrates that the general public is not well aware of the nature of the engineering profession and its impact on quality of life1, even though engineering has compelling success stories to tell.
The Great Achievements project and the recent Lemelson-MIT/CNN Innovations program provide numerous, well-recognized examples of engineering’s pervasive impact on society [Figure 1]. These and other outreach programs, announcements, and efforts certainly help to communicate select elements of engineering, but as with many public relations activities, after the initial “splash” of an announcement the impact fades.
Beyond the broader understanding of engineering, NSF and ENG also need to communicate their role and impact on advancing the U.S. engineering and innovation enterprise.
ENG success stories of this impact do exist, such as the Civil and Mechanical Systems Division's (CMS) grantee and 2003 Nobel Laureate Paul C. Lauterbur, whose pioneering work on Magnetic Resonance Imaging [Figure 2] has had profound impact on the health of this nation and the world. There are many more examples, large and small.
It may be, however, that the most compelling messages will not come from our past successes, but from the potential to improve our lives in the future through new technology and new engineering innovations.


T
Figure 2: MRI


o highlight the timeliness of this effort, the Making the Case report comes at a time when other related reports and recommendations from the U.S. science and engineering community have been, or are in the process of being issued by such leading institutions as the National Academy of Engineering and the Council on Competitiveness2. These are:
The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century [NAE, 2004], which centers on envisioning future scenarios, and determining what sort of education engineers will require to address them.
Innovate America: National Innovation Initiative Report [Council on Competitiveness, 2004], which recommends programs to ensure the talent, investment, and infrastructure necessary for the United States to continue to excel in innovation on a global scale.
Assessing the Capacity of the U.S. Engineering Research Enterprise: Preliminary Report for Public Review [NAE Draft, 2005], which recommends specific programs on a local and national level the United States should embrace, particularly Discovery-Innovation Institutes.
Each of these reports highlights fundamental challenges that have to be overcome before we can hope to advance engineering in the United States, and not the least of which is a lack of appreciation for what is engineering, how is it distinct from science, and what is its impact on the U.S. economy and quality of life. These concepts may be considerably more difficult to communicate than success stories, since there are no accepted definitions, even within the engineering community. Additionally, there is a dearth of research on what messages and programs will help make the case with our target audiences.3

It is clear that ENG and the engineering community must make a more effective case for the promise of engineering research, education, and investment. This report attempts to address this by providing a flexible framework that can be utilized as ENG moves forward with its strategic planning process.


This need can be summed up in the words of Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel and NAE chairman: "We are not graduating the volume [of scientists and engineers], we do not have a lock on the infrastructure, we do not have a lock on the new ideas, and we are either flat-lining, or in real dollars cutting back, our investments in physical science. The only crisis the U.S. thinks it is in today is the war on terrorism. It’s not!”4
II. Task Force Charge and Methodology
The Task Force was initially directed to prepare an action plan to enable ENG to better define and communicate its role in serving the nation, NSF, and the engineering community by addressing the following issues:

  • How can we better educate the general public and policymakers about the role of engineering and ENG?

  • How can we get the engineering communities (in government, academe, and industry) to help make the case for moving ENG forward?

  • How can we better focus ENG's portfolio of funding of research and education in order to move ENG forward? (Review the current portfolio to see if we can bring better focus on certain problem/opportunity areas.)

  • What partnerships are needed in order to move ENG forward?

  • Are the engineering communities being effectively served by NSF? If not, what needs to change? How can we better communicate with them?

Based on feedback from the Assistant Director for Engineering, the charge was modified to reflect an “outreach” oriented approach. The task force prepared an action plan that communicates the value and impact of engineering innovation to the nation. The report also presents specific strategies that communicate ENG's role in supporting innovation that advances our safety, health, and economic prosperity. The report specifically addresses how the engineering communities can help make the case for engineering, and what partnerships (i.e. media partners, the science community, engineering societies, science centers, etc.) are necessary to communicate most effectively. Key elements from the first draft are included in the report appendices for reference and as a resource.


Under a very tight schedule, the following tasks have been accomplished:

  • Each Task Force member led one or more major segment of this report.

  • Input was sought from all ENG, other NSF directorates, engineering deans, university presidents, industry leaders, NAE members, professional societies and others.

  • A brown bag lunch discussion involving 24 professional members from ENG was held.

  • Numerous reference books and reports were reviewed. Selected findings are included in this report.

  • The ENG AdCom5 helped to further refine the report.

  • The DRAFT report was presented at the ENG AdCom and EMT meetings.

  • The DRAFT report was circulated among other members of the Directorate Management Team for in-depth review and comment.

  • A revised draft was prepared reflecting a more focused charge.

III. Executive Summary
The reasons for making the case for engineering are clear and compelling. First, engineering drives our economy; it builds the foundation for a prosperous and secure future. Second, the engine of engineering innovation does not run solely on the value of its contributions to society; it requires a committed and active public and private investment. It also requires a strong educational foundation and a world-class workforce. Finally, the public awareness and understanding of engineering – its process and its impact – are not well understood by the public. This final point hinders our nation’s ability to adequately attract a diverse, world-class engineering workforce, and to enact the bold programs necessary to ensure our continued leadership in engineering innovation.
This task force answers its charge in two ways: first, by making recommendations on what internal changes (cultural and programmatic) the NSF and ENG should undertake to help make the case within NSF, throughout the engineering community, and to the public. It also makes recommendations on how it can catalyze and support external activities that will have a broad, long-term impact on the public understanding and awareness of engineering innovation.
A common theme to both the internal and external recommendations is the clear understanding that a unified message and approach across all sectors of engineering is vital to ensure the ultimate success of these efforts.

Internal Recommendations





  • Develop a formal mechanism to support Public Understanding of Engineering programs within ENG

  • Support and expand linkages with the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs

  • Ensure NSF adopts the terms “engineering” and “innovation” appropriately and pervasively

  • Work with SRS to ensure engineering is addressed specifically in attitude surveys

  • Expand NSF-communications through ENG Distinguished Lecture Series

  • Make “outreach” a stronger element of the “Broader Impacts” section of proposals.

External Recommendations





  • Fund research on how to improve the public understanding of engineering through messages and outreach programs

  • Sponsor workshops and conferences on public understanding to help unify engineering community behind messages

  • Support and catalyze engineering community-wide outreach activities and cultivate a young, exciting “voice” or spokesperson for engineering

  • Work with engineering societies to promote engineering with a unified voice

  • Work with engineering community to communicate and promote the recommendations from (Engineer of 2020, Innovate America, Assessing the Capacity)

  • Catalyze effort to add “engineering” as a formal category for the Nobel Prize






IV. Building Public Support for Engineering
The public understanding of engineering is a critical and growing concern for engineering research, engineering education, and the progress of engineering innovation in the United States.
Recent reports by the Council on Competitiveness and the National Academy of Engineering echo longstanding concerns that the United States is in jeopardy of falling behind other nations economically and technologically, and that our nation’s capacity to innovation is being challenged.
Many developing countries (e.g., China and India) are now educating excellent engineers, and in large quantities. [Workforce Report, NSF/ENG, 2005]

Figure 3: Engineering degrees granted by country [NSF, 2004]


These data reinforce one of the assertions of the Council on Competitiveness’ report on innovation, which reads: “While we remain the world’s leader, the capacity for innovation is going global… .” The report also states that sustaining our competitive advantage will require “innovating continuously on a global basis.”
This report and others recommend bold new programs that could turn the tide and reinvigorate the U.S. engineering innovation enterprise. But, they also acknowledge that to move these bold programs forward, the United States requires broad public understanding and support for engineering innovation. As noted in the DRAFT NAE report on innovation, “… as the American public comes to understand the importance of leadership in technological innovation to national economic prosperity and security, the committee believes bold initiatives of this magnitude could be given a higher priority in the federal budget process, just as funding for biomedical research was doubled in the 1990s” [NAE, Draft 2005]. Public understanding, therefore, is the linchpin in moving engineering forward and preserving the U.S. global leadership in innovation.
Public understanding is also seen as critical to developing and maintaining a world-class engineering workforce. In the Engineer of 2020 report, the NAE notes that, “Encouraging greater understanding of the value of engineering and the contributions it makes to society can help attract undecided students to engineering as well” [NAE, 2004].
This greater understanding may help engineering contend with the fact that the diversity of the profession is far from parity with the population of the United States.

Figure 4: Percentage engineering degrees earned by women, African Americans, and Hispanics in 2003 [NSF 2004]

Women and minorities make up more than two-thirds of the United States’ workforce; yet only represent 23 percent of engineering graduates [NSF/ENG Workforce Report, 2005]. Among the factors contributing to this disparity are: disillusionment with engineering and the lack of interest in the potential lifestyle, and lack of role models [Johnson and Shepperd, 2004].

Engineering, however, can make a solid case for both of these concerns. A recent survey indicates that engineers make up the largest percentage of Fortune Magazine’s top 200 CEOs (Figure 5). Clearly, there are strong, positive messages about lifestyle and role models that can and should be made.



T
Figure 5



[Neff and Ogden, 2003]
his ties in to the data found in the final report from the Extraordinary Women Engineers project.6 From a series of focus groups, several questions were asked that shine light on why girls may or may not choose to pursue a career in engineering. Two examples follow:
What do high school girls think about engineering?
High school girls believe engineering is for people who love both math and science. They do not have an understanding of what engineering is. They do not show an interest in the field nor do they think it is “for them.”
What messages is the engineering community sending to high school students?
Current engineering messages portray engineering as challenging and stress the importance of superior math and science abilities. These messages are not relevant for this audience. Messages do not include the benefits and rewards of engineering.
What these results show is that engineering has failed to demonstrate to young women, and perhaps even to the public, an exciting, recognizable face. It also fails to explain the rewards – both financial and life-style – that an engineering career can offer.

V. The Current State of Public Understanding
In 1998 and 2003, the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES) commissioned a Harris Poll to provide a better understanding of the public’s attitudes toward engineering and engineers.
Among the results from these surveys, the following data, published in 2004, stand out as relevant to our work:
Figure 6: Excerpts from the Harris Poll Indicating the Level of Prestige American’s Impart to Various Professions





Very Great

Considerable

Some

Hardly

Any

Don’t

Know

Doctor

61

27

10

2

1

Scientist

55

30

10

3

1

Teacher

53

26

15

5

1

Minister

46

28

19

7

1

Police

41

31

20

7

0

Engineer

34

39

22

4

1

Military Off.

34

36

23

6

1

Architect

26

42

26

4

2

Congressman

25

31

26

17

1

Lawyer

23

30

28

18

1

Athlete

20

28

34

17

0

Entertainer

19

29

36

15

1

Businessman

18

37

38

6

1

Banker

18

33

39

10

0

Accountant

17

33

39

11

1

Journalist

15

33

37

13

1

Union Leader

16

28

33

22

1

Note: Not all percentages add up to 100 because not all respondents answered every question.

It is shown in the research that engineers have a moderate-to-high level of prestige -- though at a level lower than other professions, namely scientists, doctors, teachers, ministers, and police. This is a good data point for certain elements, such as the weight a particular profession’s viewpoint would add to a debate on a topic of national interest. It does not, however, help in understanding why certain people choose a particular profession, or why it is perceived differently by men, women, and minorities.


Certainly, the lower prestige of professions like “Lawyer” does not dissuade people from choosing the legal profession as a career path. Likewise, the extremely high prestige of “Teachers” does not result in an abundance of qualified teachers in the United States. Other factors, such as lifestyle and financial rewards may be of greater impact.
Figure 7: Results of Periodic Polls by Harris Interactive on the Prestige of Various Professions, 1977-1988, Percentage that rated prestige as “very great”




1977

1982

1992

1997

1998

Doctor

61

55

50

52

61

Scientist

66

59

57

51

55

Teacher

29

28

41

49

53

Minister

41

42

38

45

46

Police

NA

NA

34

36

41

Engineer

34

30

37

32

34

Military Off.

NA

22

32

29

34

Architect

NA

NA

NA

NA

26

Congressman

NA

NA

24

23

25

Lawyer

36

30

25

19

23

Athlete

26

20

18

21

20

Artist

21

20

13

19

NA

Entertainer

18

16

17

18

19

Businessman

18

16

19

16

18

Banker

17

17

17

15

18

Accountant

NA

13

14

18

17

Union Leader

NA

NA

12

14

16

Journalist

17

16

15

15

15

One valuable point from the Harris Poll, however, is shown by tracking prestige over time. As noted here, engineers, even during a time of rapid technological advance and improvements in our standard of living, have not been perceived more prestigiously.


Part of that lack of change may in fact be due to broad misconceptions by the public as to what engineering is, what engineers do, and how engineers contribute to society.

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