The Building Blocks of Innovation
PDE staff attended today a briefing on education and immigration hosted by the Council for American Medical Innovation. Our report of the event follows:
At a Capitol Hill briefing titled "Education & Immigration: Building Blocks of Innovation," the Council for American Medical Innovation President Debra Lappin affirmed that U.S. leadership in medical innovation depends on education and immigration policy reforms: "Training the next generation of scientists is an important part of our economic recovery, as is attracting and retaining talented innovators from around the world."
When addressing the issue of the math and science performance crisis in the U.S. guest panelist David Heil, former host of the Emmy Award Winning PBS series "Newton's Apple," highlighted that while the U.S. is one of the world leaders in education investment, it continues to fall behind in performance. He called for early and on-going investment in math and science education such that Americans have a strong appreciation and foundation for innovation and leadership in the sciences and engineering.
At the same time, the panel concurred that innovation in the U.S. also depends on attracting and retaining the best and brightest minds from around the world. Stuart Anderson, Executive Director of the National Foundation for American Policy, commented on the long time it takes for an immigrant scientist or engineer to obtain a green card (6-10 years) and the incentives this creates for companies to hire abroad. Anderson advocated a system where foreign graduates of U.S. universities are exempt from any work permit quotas.
Unfortunately, immigration reform has been pushed back to the spring, as a result of the protracted negotiations over healthcare legislation. Earlier this week, one of the proponents of reform, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who chairs the Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, announced that he decided to delay introducing legislation to overhaul current immigration laws. The general framework he put forth so far includes consideration for high-skilled immigrant’s contributions to the economy. Sen. Schumer advocates encouraging "the world’s best and brightest individuals to come to the United States and create the new technologies and businesses that will employ countless American workers, but must discourage businesses from using our immigration laws as a means to obtain temporary and less-expensive foreign labor to replace capable American workers." The devil will be in the details of his proposals to ensure that "any reformed immigration system must be successful in encouraging the next Albert Einstein to emigrate permanently to the United States."
Today’s briefing on immigration and education is the first in a three-part series titled "Recovery through Discovery." These briefings are sponsored by the Council for American Medical Innovation, a partnership of leaders in research, medicine, public health, academia, education, labor and business working toward a national policy agenda aimed at preserving U.S. leadership in medical innovation. The next briefing will take place on September 17, 2009 and will focus translational research. For more information on these events, click here.
[Reported by Cristina Fernandez]