Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

6. Investing in Human Potential... 1993 - AAAS (Background)

American Association for the Advancement of Science

With the day coming in which white Americans of non-Hispanic origin will no longer be a majority of this country’s population, the United States cannot hope to maintain its worldwide scientific and mathematical leadership if we continue to discard so much of our talent. If more STEM departments would take to heart the notion that their job is not just to create science, but also scientists, and that they need to be drawing from all segments of society if they are to have an adequate pool to sustain their disciplines in the new century, then those efforts could go a long way toward addressing the problem. Pre-college intervention projects, in which college and university faculty work directly with pre-college students in programs designed to fan the students’ interest in careers in science- and mathematically-based disciplines, can help feed the pipeline.

–PKAL F21 Statement, 2002.

Background

Reviewing the 1993 report, Investing in Human Potential, is frustrating, a reminder of the ineffectiveness of efforts to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in the study and practice of science & technology. It is especially disheartening because today the opportunities to be a contributing citizen and to have interesting productive careers increasingly depends on a person’s scientific, technological, and quantitative literacy. Further, failure to attract underrepresented populations to the study of STEM leads to significant loss of talent in the service of the nation.

This report includes recommendations directed at the wide range of individuals and agencies that must take responsibility to intervene at appropriate stages. None of this will be inexpensive, but several of the recommendations directed toward institutions can be undertaken with existing resources, to set the stage for more extensive reforms. The editors point out:

…creating an atmosphere which promotes diversity among the science and engineering faculty and student body requires a focus on many aspects of both academic and social life on campus. [This] study suggests that the approach an institution takes toward creating an atmosphere for diversity may differ by institutional type. Regardless of the specific strategies to be used however, institutional commitment is the required first step.