Carl Zimmer paints a brighter picture on U.S. Science Education.
I keep hearing it lately—in conversations, dialogues, op-eds: The claim that the number of scientists being produced by U.S. universities is in decline. Or, that the number of students enrolling or majoring in science, at the undergraduate or graduate level, is falling. For a classic example, see this recent San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, which makes a very important argument about energy education, minus the following erroneous claim: “American universities are graduating fewer students each year in the crucial fields of science, mathematics and engineering.”
We have been sold—hard—on the idea that U.S. preeminence in science is now threatened.
The facts clearly say otherwise, no matter how you slice them. According to the National Science Foundation, in 2006—the last year for which data is currently available—the nation produced a record number of science and engineering Ph.D.s: 29,854 in total. This was the fourth year in a row that the total doctorate number has increased, and a 6.7 percent increase from the year 2005 (the previous record).