The report emphasises the increasingly important contribution of international scholars to the national economy in recent decades. In 1966, only 23 per cent of science and engineering doctorates in the US were foreign born, but by 2000 that figure had risen to 39 per cent.
In 2003, foreign students earned 38 per cent of the US-awarded Science and Engineering (S&E) doctorates and 58.9 per cent of the engineering doctorates. Among S&E postdoctoral scholars, the share of temporary residents has increased from 37 per cent in 1982 to 59 per cent in 2002. The report also noted that nearly half the doctorate-level staff and 58 per cent of the postdoctoral, research, and clinical fellows at the National Institutes of Health campus are foreign nationals.
For S&E occupations, data from the 2000 US Census indicate that about 38 per cent of doctorate-level employees are foreign-born, compared with 24 per cent in 1990.
However, the report notes that: "In the advent of increased security concerns after September 11, 2001, the country has made it more difficult for foreign-born students and scholars to come to the United States, in part because of the concern of some that international students may receive education and training in sensitive US civilian and military technologic fields."
Although they acknowledge that the federal government has taken some steps to improve certain procedures, the report's authors would like to see more streamlining being done. The report identified a need to maintain and strengthen the S&E enterprise of the United States, which would require the cooperation of the government, universities, and industry to agree on an appropriate balance between openness, mobility, and economic and national security.
One such proposal would allow the time extensions that some international scholars have been granted before they must renew their security clearances should be extended to academics from all countries, and that new categories of visas should be created for visiting academics coming to the US for education and training programmes, short-term research projects or scientific meetings.
Currently in the US, information on the international science and engineering workforce is not collected adequately enough to get an overall view of the situation The report calls for improved data on these demographics, working conditions and career progression of foreign researchers in the United States.
The report also stressed that universities should continue to encourage the enrollment of international students by offering fellowships and assistantships. Universities that have large international student and scholar populations should conduct surveys to evaluate existing services provided by the institutions as well as provide adequate support services.
The full report is available at the National Academies Press' website.