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Rising Above the Gathering Storm Two Years Later: Accelerating Progress Toward a Brighter Economic Future


In October 2005 the National Academies released a report that New York Times columnist Thomas L. Freidman called "a new New Deal urgently called for by our times." Written by a nonpartisan committee of business leaders, university presidents, and prominent scholars, including three Nobel Prize winners, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future urged the United States to make the investments needed to "compete, prosper, and be secure in the global community of the 21st century."

On April 29, 2008, about 500 representatives of business, government, and academia met in Washington, D.C., to review the efforts taken to achieve the goals laid out in Rising Above the Gathering Storm. The convocation was organized by the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine with support from the National Math and Science Initiative. "A number of significant events have taken place since the Gathering Storm report was released," said Norman Augustine, who chaired the committee that wrote the report. Unfortunately, he added, most of those positive events have occurred in other countries. Governments around the world are boosting their support of science and engineering research, invigorating precollege science and math education, and investing in institutions of higher education. Meanwhile, the United States has made little progress in strengthening its education, research, and innovation systems. "It would be a cruel outcome if the Gathering Storm report were to motivate others to become more competitive while we did little," said Augustine.

Discussion at the convocation focused primarily on U.S. priorities and the federal policy context. The following summary reports the main themes that emerged from the presentations and discussion sessions at the convocation. After a brief overview of the initial reception of the Gathering Storm report, the summary is organized around the report's four major recommendations. While progress has occurred in each of the four areas, many key steps have yet to be taken. "Competitiveness is very much on the agenda," said Augustine. "The problem is to convert that interest into action."