Monday, July 28, 2003

The Brain Drain

There was an interesting op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette yesterday (Sunday). It describes the incredible problems that foreign technical students are facing coming to the US to do graduate work:

[...]Consular officers, most of whom are liberal arts graduates who have little or no knowledge of science or technology, have been given a "technology alert list" of "sensitive" academic subjects. That might not be so bad if the items on this list were few and narrowly focused, and the people applying the list had reasonable technical credentials.

Unfortunately, neither is true. Many of the entries on this list are remarkably broad. Thus, if a student tells a consular officer that he or she will be studying chemical engineering, robotics or even urban planning, that often has been enough to get their file sent to Washington for a review that might take many months.

As someone who has faced the rigors of both the INSBCIS and technical graduate school (although not simultaneously), I'm not sure which I would describe as harder. Grad school was probably more rigorous, but the sheer fascination of seeing how often you can bounce your head off a brick wall and keep coming back for more.

Anyway, the writer makes some interesting points about the challenges of keeping a country in the forefront of technical advances while throttling back the supply of scientists and engineers.