Many places around the country are often referred to as college
towns where the local college or university dominates employment,
economic and cultural life but a new study suggests that Corvallis
and Oregon State University may really deserve that reputation more
According to a recent survey of science and engineering indicators
issued by the National Science Foundation, Corvallis ranks second in
the nation for the number of scientists as a percentage of total
employment at 12.7 percent.
That s behind only Boulder, Colo., home to the University of
Colorado and ahead of such famed areas as the Silicon Valley around
San Jose, Calif.; the Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel
Hill in North Carolina; the huge numbers of science and technology
experts in Washington, D.C.; all of the Ivy League; and even the
medical powerhouse of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
It s not just OSU, of course large numbers of scientists and
engineers in Corvallis are also employed at Hewlett Packard, and new
companies such as AVI BioPharma or SIGA Technologies are expanding
operations, often with close ties to the university. But OSU alone has
more than 3,000 faculty members, and thousands of graduate students and
others involved in original scientific research - which comprise a
pretty big chunk of a small city s population.
We knew that OSU plays a big role in Corvallis, but this is pretty
amazing, said Sherman H. Bloomer, dean of the College of Science at
OSU. It s clear that innovation, new ideas and scientific discoveries
are going to drive economic growth in the future, so this is good news
not just for Corvallis but for the state of Oregon.
Many of the other major science and research employers in Corvallis,
including Hewlett Packard, at least in part began operations or moved
there because of the close collaborations they could form with the
university, and also to draw upon the steady stream of science and
engineering graduates it provides.
Scientists want to work with and be around other scientists,
Bloomer said. Interdisciplinary collaboration is the way of the
future, and you need other people to bounce ideas off of, talk to,
share your enthusiasm for the work you re doing. A strong science-based
community just builds on itself. The global challenges that Oregon
faces in this area, however, are considerable.
Another report by the National Academies, called Rising Above the
Gathering Storm, concluded that the scientific and technical building
blocks of our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other
nations are gathering strength. The low-wage structure in many
developing nations is now giving them competitive advantages not only
on the factory floor but also in scientific laboratories, the report
noted. It outlined four key areas for needed change, including K-12 education
and economic policies and the need for expanded scientific research
and more support of higher education.
According to other parts of the new report from the National Science
Foundation, Oregon has concerns in several areas. Corvallis may be a
hotbed of scientists, but the state as a whole ranks in the bottom
fourth of science and engineering graduate students (ages 25-34) per
1,000 individuals. It is in the top quartile, however, of science and
engineering degrees as a share of higher education degrees conferred.
So part of the challenge, educators say, may be to get more Oregon
students to attend college, and then keep them there through graduate
Oregon ranked in the third quartile in student aid per full-time
undergraduate college student, less than half the amount spent by some
of the leading states. Oregon is also above average in the amount it
charges undergraduate students in public four-year institutions. Other
findings from the analysis (caution: some findings are from older
data):Oregon was fairly high in the number of people in the workforce
who hold a bachelor s degree, more than 35 percent.
The state was above average, in the second quartile, of numbers of
computer specialists, life and physical scientists, and holders of
doctorates in science or engineering.
Industrial research in the West is strong. Much of the Northeast and
several western states Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho
were in the top group of industry-performed research and development,
measured as a share of private industry output.
The report also has a section on the public understanding of science
and technology. It concludes that the public often lacks knowledge
about basic scientific facts and the process of science. Many in the
science community, it said, are concerned that this may translate into
a lowered level of support for government-sponsored research and the
numbers of students who pursue careers in science and technology.
information provided by OSU News & Communications.
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