Rensselaer President calls for State of the Union focus on nation's capacity to innovate

Calling for a renewed national focus on science and technology, in an open letter to President George W. Bush, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson has urged the President to use the State of the Union to outline a national agenda to "spark a legacy of innovation."

Jackson has long warned of what she calls the "Quiet Crisis" in America – the threat to our nation's capacity to innovate due to the looming shortage in the nation's science and technology workforce. The shortfall results from a record number of retirements on the horizon, and not enough students in the pipeline to replace them.

"Mr. President, our science and technology position is a looming national crisis because it robs us of our capacity for innovation – so critical for our economic and national security," Jackson wrote in the January 25th letter to President Bush. "Investing in our nation's capacity to innovate now will not only strengthen our economy, but may, by addressing global challenges such as energy security, help to allay geopolitical tensions that make for such alarming headlines today."

"Outlining a national science and technology agenda to spark new research, ignite education, and entice our youth will provide the leadership we need at this critical moment," Jackson wrote. "I suggest such an agenda must be built around meeting global energy needs to ensure our energy security…. Just as President Kennedy galvanized the nation in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik, so too could you galvanize the nation around energy security – indeed, energy security is the "space race" of the 21st century."

Over the last five years, President Jackson has urged a national conversation to generate the will for a national policy to address the "Quiet Crisis." She has been involved in developing initiatives by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Council on Competitiveness's Innovation Initiative, and the National Academies' report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," among others.

"The crescendo of conversation is growing, but what is needed now is galvanizing leadership from the President to coalesce and multiply these early efforts, as only the President can," Jackson says.

Jackson is Chairman of the Board and Past President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, former Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

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For a copy of President Jackson's Jan. 25, 2006 letter to President Bush, contact Theresa Bourgeois at bourgt@rpi.edu, or call 518-276-2840.

For information on the "Quiet Crisis" go to: http://www.rpi.edu/homepage/quietcrisis/index.html

For information on energy security at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute go to: http://www.rpi.edu/research/energy/

About Rensselaer
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is the nation's oldest technological university. The university offers bachelors, master's, and doctoral degrees in engineering, the sciences, information technology, architecture, management, and the humanities and social sciences. Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. Rensselaer faculty are known for pre-eminence in research conducted in a wide range of fields, with particular emphasis in biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, and the media arts and technology. The Institute is well known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.


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