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All posts by James A. Lewis

Shortage of Scientists

A question  regarding the shortage of scientists in the US.  NSF data shows (in constant 2010 dollars) that the median salary for S&E occupations was $72,432 in 1993 and $73,888 in 2008. if therewas a shortage, wouldn’t we expect salaries to go up as companies bid against each other for scarce S&E talent?   Life sciences, aerospace engineering and biomedical engineering were the only fields with significant increases, each going up between 10-12%. Other fields were largely flat.  I’ll post the data seperately.  

One explanation is that companies are substituting foreign for US scientists, another is that we’ve overstated the problem.  If companies can substitute foreign scientists, their performance won’t be affected (it may even be improved if the foreign scientists are cheaper).   There could however, be damage to  innovation in America (as opposed to innovation by American companies). 

Another question: if  we artificially increase the supply of American scientists, does that mean their salaries would fall?   If we increase the supply of scientists and didn’t also increase the supply of dollars to fund their resaerch, does that mean we have more scientists chasing the same research dollars and by implication,

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Misinterpreting PISA Scores

The results of the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) generated their usual ration of hand-wringing.  They deserve a second look.

Differences in how the tests are given complicate interpretation of PISA scores, and some countries have in the past done things to give their scores an upward nudge.  This time, PISA decided to provide scores for China-Shanghai rather than for all of China.  This is like only using scores from high income suburbs in the US.

The US scored 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math, but if we remove countries with small populations or extraneous slices like Shanghai, the US is better seen as ranking in the top five.  Of the tested countries with more than 100 million in population, the US ranks second, behind only Japan.  Of the countries that are likely to shape international relations in the future – Brazil, China, India, the U.S., only the US  and Brazil participated, and the US scored significantly higher than Brazil in every category.  The correlation between PISA and economic performance deserves a second look as well.  Japan, whose economy flatlined in 1990 and has

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