Speaking Out: Fenves, Orbach Share Views Locally, Nationally

Recent editorials by Dean Fenves and Ray Orbach, Energy Institute director, capture their views on the future of engineering education and the implications of cutting research funding.

Recent editorials by Dean Gregory L. Fenves and Ray Orbach, Energy Institute director, capture their views on the future of engineering education and the implications of cutting research funding.

Ray Orbach: Research is Vital to Economic Growth

Ray Orbach portrait

It was with a mixture of astonishment and dismay that I watched as the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 1, a bill to fund the federal government for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year.

Left intact, the massive cuts in research contained in the bill passed on Feb. 19 would effectively end America's legendary status as the leader of the worldwide scientific community, putting the United States at a distinct disadvantage when competing with other nations in the global marketplace. Other countries, such as China and India, are increasing their funding of scientific research because they understand its critical role in spurring technological advances and other innovations. If the United States is to compete in the global economy, it too must continue to invest in research programs.

As the Under Secretary for Science at the Department of Energy (DOE) in the administration of George W. Bush, I can personally attest that funding for scientific research is not a partisan issue — or at least it shouldn't be. The cuts proposed in H.R. 1 would reverse a bipartisan commitment to double the science research budgets of the National Science Foundation, the DOE Office of Science and the National Institute for Science and Technology over 10 years. These are national goals supported by both Presidents Bush and Obama, and they were affirmed as recently as last December in the America COMPETES Act.

The spending cuts included in the bill would have a devastating effect on an array of critical scientific research. Read more grey arrow.

Dean Fenves: We Must Inspire Future Engineers Now

Gregory Fenves portrait

On Saturday [March 5], The University of Texas at Austin welcomes visitors of all ages to Explore UT. Many will come to the northeast area of campus, where the Cockrell School of Engineering lives, and discover the exciting technologies that improve our quality of life.

While Explore UT shows the fun side of higher education, our motive is serious. Our state needs to increase the number of students pursuing degrees in science, math and engineering. Children visiting UT can become the future leaders who will drive innovation and economic growth by creating the technologies, products and services that will solve grand challenges in such areas as energy, health care, manufacturing and infrastructure.

Recently, the National Academies, the leading authority on science, engineering and medicine, published Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5.

"For the first time in history," the authors concluded, "America's younger generation is less well-educated than its parents ... and only a minority of American adults believes the standard of living of their children will be higher than what they themselves have enjoyed."

One fact is striking: A generation ago, the U.S. had the highest percentage among developed nations for the number of college graduates. Today, we rank 10th. Read more grey arrow.

Editorial Placements

Ray Orbach's editorial appeared in Science Magazine, and was referenced in a USA Today article, where he was quoted.

Download a printer-friendly version of Orbach's editorial (PDF).

Dean Fenves' editorial appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on March 5 and The Dallas Morning News on March 4.

Download a printer-friendly version of Fenves' editorial (PDF).