As Science Heats Up, U.S. Share of Talent Shrinks

Susan Hall
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Eight IT Skills Commanding Six-Figure Salaries

An interesting New York Times article looks at IBM's search not only for patterns in Big Data, but also for overlap in various fields and possible reuse of algorithms.


It quotes Steve Mills, IBM's senior vice president for software and systems, saying that with algorithms, ""if I can do a power grid, I can do water supply," and calling the process "leveraging the cost structure of new mathematics."


Mills said IBM is the largest employer of Ph.D. mathematicians in the world, focusing them on things like oil exploration and medicine, and adding, "On the side we're doing astrophysics, genomics, proteomics." I had to look that last one up: It's the study of proteins.


Meanwhile, scientists at Washington State University and the University of Arizona have been using Google's PageRank algorithm to predict chemical reactions, InformationWeek reports.


Yet despite all this exciting new research, according to Census Bureau data to be released Friday, the share of American workers employed in science and engineering professions has fallen in the past decade. They made up 4.9 percent of the labor force in 2010, compared with a peak of 5.3 percent in 2000, The Wall Street Journal reports. Up until 2000, the share of these workers had grown in every 10-year census since 1950.


That's certainly alarming and no doubt will redouble the call for the United States to train more scientists, as President Obama did in his State of the Union address. To "win the future," he said, "we need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world."


There are problems already. As I wrote last month, the dearth of scientists and engineers adept at supercomputing could threaten U.S. leadership in the field.

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