Making the Case for Engineering Study and Recommendations

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First and foremost, the benefits of engineering should be disseminated via the web and media (e.g. engineering society magazines, local newspapers, television, etc.). Twenty-one percent of Fortune 200 Company CEOs have undergraduate degrees in Engineering [Neff and Ogden, 2003] while only 6 percent of college graduates are in the engineering field [Hill and Johnson, 2004]. Enlist these CEOs to promote and encourage the engineering profession by giving speeches and interviews (see Figure 6).

Figure 6

Second, ask Deans of Engineering to encourage outreach in surrounding schools (K-12) to excite youngsters with the work that engineers do. It is known that children make up their minds whether or not they like Math or Science as early as third grade [NAE, 2004]. It is therefore suggested that educators, government agencies, and private industry promote a mentorship program whereby the nation’s engineering schools would receive supplemental funding for engineering students to mentor K-12 students during a school year. This interaction could help form the foundation for young students to see the many exciting and innovative things that engineers do and create.
Third, encourage government agencies to promote engineering by funding students to intern during school breaks at government research facilities.

Finally, these efforts should be reinforced through television programs and advertisements sponsored by the government and industry. Local businesses could also encourage children to consider the engineering profession by offering tours of their facilities to stimulate interest. It is an obvious fact that both young and old like to see and understand how things are made and put together.

Over the past 50 years advances made by U.S. engineers has been spectacular – we must find a way to continue this momentum for the next 50 years! [Brighton, 2004]

Appendix 2: Better Focus ENG’s Portfolio

In collaboration with engineering outreach, ENG must take a critical look at how it allocates its funding. This will build a better case for investment by demonstrating a focused approach to allocating its portfolio. Before we can make these decisions, however, it is important to understand the current financial underpinnings of the ENG budget. Financial analysis of ENG's portfolio demonstrates the following focuses:

(1) Nano. In FY 2004, 23 percent of ENG's total funds (not counting SBIR/STTR) were invested into Nano. In FY 2005, this will rise to over 28 percent. Clearly, Nano is a major ENG focus, with increasing financial support. NSF is recognized as the leader of the Federal government Nano effort. Within NSF, ENG is recognized as the Nano leader.

(2) Centers. In FY 2004, ENG invested over $75 million in Centers (ERCs, EERCs, I/UCRCs), which was about 16 percent of ENG's total funds (not counting SBIR/STTR). Clearly, Centers are a major ENG focus. At NSF, and to some extent beyond NSF, ENG is recognized as a leader in the Center area.

(3) CAREER Grants. In FY 2004, ENG invested over $33 million in CAREER grants, or about 7 percent of its total funds (not counting SBIR/STTR). In proportion to its size, ENG is the strongest supporter of the CAREER grant program at NSF. However, it can be argued that ENG receives basically no recognition from NSF for this strong support of the CAREER program. For example, ENG receives no additional funds as a result of its strong CAREER support.
(4) Grants to Support Unsolicited Proposals. In FY 2004, over 27 percent of ENG's total funds (not counting SBIR/STTR) were invested in unsolicited proposals. Unsolicited proposals are a "hallmark" of NSF within the academic community. Unfortunately, the success rate for unsolicited proposals is rapidly dropping in ENG. One primary reason for the rapid drop is the decreased availability of funds due to the increasing allocation of funds to Nano items (NSE solicitation, NSEE solicitation, NNIN, etc.) and the Sensor and Sensor Networks solicitation. In FY 2005, this situation will be even more marked due to the new allocation of $20 million to support NEES operations, coupled with a probable decrease in ENG's total budget. As already cited, NSF and ENG hold leadership positions in Nano. Within NSF, the same is true for the Sensor and Sensor Networks solicitation, and NEES. It can be argued that the recognition afforded to ENG by leadership of Nano, Sensors, and NEES is worth the cost incurred, namely lower success rates for ENG unsolicited proposals.
(5) Special ENG Solicitations. Not counting the solicitations already cited (such as Nano, Centers, Sensors, CAREER) and some other mandatory solicitations such as BE and ITR, in FY 2004, ENG invested about $36 million, or 7.8 percent of its total funds (not counting SBIR/STTR) in special solicitations. This is a relatively small proportion of ENG's total funds. These special solicitations gain ENG significant visibility and recognition with Federal government partners (NIH, USDA, EPA, etc.) and in academic communities. Also, some argue that it is through special solicitations that ENG program officers are able to be innovative leaders in advancing engineering research and education.
ENG (through STG, EDDG, EMG) has recently drafted the following ENG Vision, which it aspires to achieve within 5 to 10 years:
ENG is the acknowledged leader for advancing the frontiers of engineering research, innovation, and education, in partnership with the engineering community, in service to society and the nation.
As ENG makes future investment decisions, each candidate investment can be gauged against this vision: Will such an investment move ENG in the direction of acknowledged leadership? If the answer to this question is "no," then perhaps the investment should not be made, particularly in times of a declining budget for ENG.
The above financial analysis shows where ENG has been putting its money in the past. In light of ENG's draft vision, the key question is, where should ENG put its money in the future?

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