Category Archives: WTEC

Chinese Academy of Science Publishes WTEC Paper

In July I presented a paper in Rio that predicted that the Chinese would soon pass the US and EU to lead the world in S&T: The Race for World Leadership for Science and Technology: Status and Forecasts, by R. D. Shelton and P. Foland.  This paper got little notice at the Rio conference and later in the US, but in China, people are paying more attention.  At their request, it was translated into Chinese by their Academy of Sciences and published in their journal, Science Focus in February, 2010.  All the versions of the paper are posted at http://itri2.org/Rpaper/

R. D. Shelton

Confessions of an Elderly Science Policy Analyst

In 1983 I left my engineering professor’s job at the University of Louisville to be a rotator at the National Science Foundation, as a science policy analyst. My boss was Frank Huband who taught me the ropes. Policy analysis and government policy generally were all new to me, but they turned out to be fun. I soon caught Potomac Fever, and wanted to stay in the capital, instead of returning to the provinces. The Courier-Journal’s local news could not compare to the politics, government, and international news in the Washington Post

One of my first efforts at NSF was to try to kill the Internet, which was then being developed there. I was paying the bills for the NSF working group that was expanding the DARPA network to provide email to all scientists. The thing that bothered me is that that the Congress had been sold on this effort for something completely different. They had given millions to NSF to ward off the threat to American supercomputer leadership from the Japanese. The working group was using these funds to expand the new email service from a few researchers in the in-group at DARPA to all scientists supported at NSF. They hooked this into the original purpose by some smoke and mirrors about high speed visualization of supercomputer output, telemedicine, and other high bandwidth (56Kbps!) applications. I was pretty green, but even I could see that this was nonsense, and I worried that the Congress might stomp on NSF for this diversion of funds. I wrote a couple of issue papers to the NSF director warning about this, but fortunately, no one paid any attention to them. If I had been a more effective policy analyst, maybe there would be no Internet today. And this was my first lesson in international competitiveness of S&T.

My next lesson was the international technology watching activity that I continue today. As early as the 1970s, Japan was getting rich by manufacturing high technology products for world markets, initially by making products invented in the US and Europe. In the early 1980s, they started using some of their profits to become self sufficient by doing their own invention. This challenged US dominance of R&D, and some in the US began to get concerned. George Gamota convinced the US Government to start monitoring S&T developments in Japan with a program called JTECH. Somehow funding of the program ended up my modest NSF office, which did have a great view of the Potomac. The program was being conducted by the giant SAIC company, and my job as COTR was to make sure things went well. We started sending delegations of American experts to Japan to gather S&T information, a methodology that we also learned from the Japanese. The final reports and workshops were well received and several agencies started chipping in to help fund individual studies, encouraged by George.

When my IPA was over, I found a job in nearby Baltimore at Loyola College as chair of their Computer Science Department. After a decent interval, I made a bid to move the JTECH program to Loyola, which was accepted by NSF in 1989. We changed the name slightly to JTEC, the Japanese Technology Evaluation Center.  Soon glasnost permitted us to start sending delegations to the USSR, so we changed the “Japanese” to “World,” thus WTEC. Foreign technology watching proved so popular with Federal agencies that WTEC accounted for most of Loyola’s sponsored research for years. In 2001 we spun WTEC off as a separate non-profit research institute, and it has continued to be one of the Government’s main methods of assessing R&D in the US and abroad. In recent years, we have supplemented the original peer review methods with objective indicators, like scientific papers, citations to them, patents, and the like.

While at Loyola, I got an IEEE Congressional Fellowship to work on the Hill for a year as a sabbatical project. As I was packing my bags to go work for the House Science Committee, the Republican Revolution captured the House in November, 1995.  After 40 years in the minority wilderness, they had plenty of ideas about what should be changed.  The Democratic staff shrank to fit its Spartan exile in the Ford House Office Building, and I had to scramble to find another job.  I ended up as a Legislative Assistant to the newly elected Hon. Lloyd Doggett, who represented Austin, Texas.  I learned twice as fast on this job than usual, partly because of the 80-hour weeks.  Among other chores, I drafted a lot of responses to mail from constituents, covering environmental, science, technology, telecommunications, and whatever issues the other LAs didn’t want.  I was immediately struck by the imbalance between these issues; I got almost a hundred times as much mail from tree-huggers as from scientists and engineers, despite Austin being a hot bed of high tech industry.  It quickly became clear to me that S&T had a very low priority for the attention of the Congress and why.  When I left the job, I wrote some stuff for the IEEE and ASEE appealing to their members to get more politically involved, but lately I have concluded that this is a systemic problem that will take a lot more than a few more letters to your Congressman.

In all I have been making objective assessments of American science leadership for more than 25 years. During that time, I have watched the US relative position decline, year after year. Frankly, pointing with alarm abroad helps us raise money for WTEC studies. But the situation has deteriorated to the point that we usually no longer seek threats to American leadership in a field, but rather seek to document how far behind we already are.  I have come to see this as a serious threat to our national security and economic prosperity, which is the motivation for all these words, this blog, WTEC, and what little scholarship I have time to do.

R. D. Shelton

Old: ITRInews; New: ScienceUSblog

Policy wonks who used to subscribe to the ITRInews electronic newsletter might like to read this blog by the same author.  It is also focused on international S&T policy, including news from WTEC, which leads U. S. industry in foreign technology watching.  You can visit http://wtec.org/headlines/ , or get a message pushed to you when there is a new posting–either by email or an RSS feed.

Comments are accepted,  invited, begged for, groveled for… just so I know there’s someone out there in Internet Land.  I would particularly appreciate tips on new reports, workshops, etc. in the field, so I can post them. You can contact me directly at shelton@wtec.org.

BTW the 60 issues of ITRInews I put out are at ITRInews Archive

R. D. Shelton

Race Between H1N1 Virus and Its Vaccine

A few deliveries of the H1N1 vaccine started this week in the U.S., well after a lot of kids started getting sick at school, and some dying.  Since I have small children in a school that already has H1N1 cases, I take more than an academic interest in this.  I just spent the morning trying to be proactive and figure out how to get them the vaccine sooner, rather than later.  Here are some of the things I found out that might be helpful to others in the same boat.

There is a lot of noise on this issue from reporters telling us to cover our mouths when we sneeze.  There is damn little, indeed NO, information as of today on how to actually get the vaccine that would protect our kids.  I can’t state that categorically, though.  The Federal Government, in its obvious desire to avoid responsibility for kids dying because of delays, has delegated the delivery of the vaccine that it purchased to hundreds of local health departments, who all have different policies and methods of getting the word out about how to get the vaccine.  I looked at PA and MD, and found nothing, except that they have started to get some FluMist vaccine and some day they might tell us how to get it.  Here’s what a reporter extracted from a PA health department official on Oct. 18, ”While more H1N1 vaccine is available, the state is still withholding its list of private health care providers who have it to prevent offices from being overwhelmed with requests, state health spokeswoman Stacey Kriedeman said. Once adequate supplies of vaccine are delivered, the state will release the public vaccination sites. “  I confirmed this by calling their hot line on 10/19/9, I reached a human being, who told me that she could not provide any information on where to get the vaccine.  I do see scattered articles in local papers around the state about vaccination clinics, but the articles appear when they are history.  The Washington Post ran an article on Oct. 16 surveying when and how the vaccine might be available in their region.

In the absence of useful information on how to get the vaccine, the paranoid among us might suspect that the first doses will be given to those who are in charge of distributing the vaccine.  Indeed, the DC health department was up front about giving its government officials the FIRST priority, just ahead of prisoners in the DC jail; kids were way down the list.    On the CDC site it shows the distribution of the first doses to states and the U.S. territories.

http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/vaccinesupply.htm

But wait, what is that “Federal Worker Program*” row with 13,000 of the very first doses?  That asterisk leads to a memo explaining how this doesn’t mean that Feds are getting a priority, which then goes on to give those priorities.

What has this got to do with American science leadership?  Well, WTEC is soon sending a delegation to Asia to find out how the Asians were able to do this development and production of H1N1 vaccine a lot faster.  Here’s a CNN piece on how China was able to do it.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/09/16/china.swine.flu.vaccine/index.html

Note the doomsday scenario in the last paragraph, a possible merger of the very contagious swine H1N1 with the very lethal avian H5N1 virus.  That’s one reason why we have to do better next time.

R. D. Shelton

Flu Hits like Hurricane Katrina

This swine flu is beginning to look like the Spanish flu, except it doesn’t seem to be as deadly–yet.  The article below is some local news about triage tents in hospital parking lots.  They will be coming to your local news soon too, well before you get the vaccine.

http://www.kttc.com/Global/story.asp?S=11224979#

WTEC is doing what it can to build defenses against this kind of threat.  We sent a delegation to Europe in 2007 to bring back ideas for faster development and production of vaccines.  We’ve just raised enough money to send the same expert panel to Asia, and will have a kickoff meeting on October 28. 

R. D. Shelton

WTEC Receives Two Contracts for NSF Research Support

On the last day of the fiscal year, the National Science Foundation issued two task orders to Lancaster’s World Technology Evaluation Center to provide research staff for two offices at NSF in Arlington, VA.  The contracts total about $870,000, and have options to extend their terms.  In both cases government officials manage the programs with assistance from WTEC.

The first office is the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, which supports a $1.6 billion (yes, that’s a “b”) per year interagency research program the National Nanotechnology Initiative This initiative was partly based on a 1999 WTEC international study of research in this field, which helped secure funding from the outgoing Clinton Administration.  This was one of the few Clinton ideas that the incoming Bush Administration liked in 2001, and it has become one of main Federal research initiatives.  WTEC has been providing research support from the beginning, and now has six staff members on-site.

The second is the Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers program at NSF is one of the techniques of the U.S. Government uses to transition discoveries from its basic research support into practical applications.  http://www.nsf.gov/eng/iip/iucrc/  WTEC provides the services of Dr. Alex Schwarzkopf, who is a model of energy for colleagues half (or a fourth!) his age.

WTEC is a non-profit spin off of Loyola University Maryland, which does more foreign research assessments for the Federal Government than any other organization.  WTEC  also has offices in Baltimore, MD and Lancaster, PA.

R. D. Shelton

WTEC joins ASTRA

The Alliance for Science and Technology Research in America is a public interest group dedicated to promoting American innovation.  It was created by Mary Good, former Undersecretary of Commerce for Technology, and now Dean of Enginering at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock.  It was modeled on Research!America, the group that successfully promoted doubling the budget of NIH.  ASTRA focuses on physical sciences and can claim some credit for the passage of the America COMPETES Act and growing support to double the budgets of NSF, NIST, and the DOE Office of Science.

http://www.aboutastra.org/

R. D. Shelton

Three Promotions at WTEC

Dr. Vitalius (Ben) Benokraitis has been promoted to Vice President for Operations.  He will be in charge of WTEC international studies and associated workshops.  He will also serve as project manager on the projects on nano achievements and opportunities and on disability research.  He is also president of WTEC’s sister company, National Science and Technology Services, LLC (dba WTEC2).

 Mrs. Patricia Foland has been promoted to Director of Information Systems.  She also is a research associate, conducting research to support WTEC, and remains Baltimore office manager.

 Mr. Chris McGee has been promoted to Sponsored Programs Officer.  He remains Director of Finance also.

 R. D. Shelton

WTEC Awarded $900,000 Coop Agreement by NSF

On Sept. 29, NSF announced that it was issuing a cooperative agreement to WTEC to start three new international studies.  They include vaccine development and production, achievements and opportunities in nanotechnology, and disability research.  The award also provides funds to complete a study of flexibile electronics, and support of the MATES interagency working group on tissue engineering.

 R. D. Shelton

Official in charge of defense against swine flu says it’s like a hurricane [Katrina, perhaps?]

We knew that the Government’s statements about developing and manufacturing a swine flu vaccine were mostly intended to ward off panic.  It takes time and hard work to develop and manufacture a vaccine, time that ran out today when my kids started back to school.  Now the CDC official in charge of the effort admits that they will come up short, probably way short, and the public should not expect the Government to solve these Acts of God problems. Indeed it’s kind of like a hurricane! Here’s the quote from ScienceInsider.

“Having a vaccine supply to protect people from the virus—which is no more virulent than seasonal flu but, in an unusual twist, mainly causes severe disease in younger people—remains the most pressing issue. At this point, the U.S. government expects manufacturers to deliver 45 million to 52 million doses of the vaccine by mid-October, said Jay Butler, head of the H1N1 task force for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is only about one-third of the amount that CDC earlier expected would be ready by then, although Butler stressed that more should become available each week, adding up to 195 million doses by the end of the year. “Everybody is doing the best they can to get as much vaccine available as soon as possible,” said Butler, “so the numbers can be subject to change.”

Although uncertainties certainly will remain, Butler stressed that the U.S. government was doing everything it could to limit the harm caused by the virus. “We can’t stop the tide of flu any more than we can turn a hurricane in its course or stop the earth shaking during an earthquake, but we can mitigate the effects and help prevent people from becoming severely ill by preparing well and acting effectively,” he said.”

http://blogs.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2009/08/unsurprisingly.html

Nonsense.  You can’t stop a hurricane, but you can stop an virus if you develop and manufacture a vaccine in time to protect the public.   Maybe next time.  American manufacturing has been so decimated, however, by movement of factories overseas that it will be a struggle.  WTEC is trying to do its part; see our report on ideas for rapid vaccine manufacturing from Europe at:

http://wtec.org/vaccmfg/RapidVaccMfg-finalreport.pdf

R. D. Shelton