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Science Task Force Targets Underrepresented Groups

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Washington--To help the nation avert an impending shortage of scientists and engineers, schools must strengthen their efforts to include currently underrepresented groups in science and mathematics programs, a Congressional task force has concluded.

Schools should help boost the number of women, minorities, and handicapped people in those fields by requiring four years each of math and science for high-school graduation and providing a math and science specialist in every elementary school, according to a report issued by the panel last month.

Every year from 1990 to 2000, it says, twice as many women, three times as many blacks, and seven times as many Hispanics must receive bachelor's degrees in science and engineering as presently do so.

The Task Force on Women, Minorities, and the Handicapped in Science and Technology, established by the Congress in 1986, developed the estimates by combining projections from the National Science Foundation, which forecasts a shortfall of 560,000 scientists and engineers by the year 2010, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects that 85 percent of new workers in the year 2000 will be women or members of minority groups.

In its final report to President Bush and the Congress, "Changing America: The New Face of Science and Engineering," the task force lays out specific recommendations for the federal government, governors, state legislators, industry, higher education, precollegiate educators, and others.

Quantitative Goals Sought

Its recommendations include:

  • In addition to higher graduation requirements for math and science, school boards should expand counseling services to encourage more students to consider careers in the fields.
  • Colleges should set quantitative goals for recruiting more U.S. students in the sciences and engineering, especially from underrepresented groups, the report states. Three times more bachelor's degrees and 10 times more doctorates must be earned by these groups in the next decade, it asserts.
  • The federal government should "establish a National Research Scholars program in science and engineering" to provide early research experiences and college scholarships for high-school students. The President has proposed two science scholarships for each Congressional district.

Copies of the report are available free of charge from the Task Force on Women, Minorities, and the Handicapped in Science and Technology, 330 C St., S.W., Room 2014, Washington, D.C. 20201; telephone: (202) 245-7477.--MW

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