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Spring/Summer 2009 Vol. 9 Number 1



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Photo by Donna Coveney, Massachusetts Institute of Technology News Office FROM THE PRESIDENT

National Academy of Engineering


Facing New and
Not-So-New Issues

Medicine, science, and engineering increasingly intersect and blend as we approach new challenges that are at once broad and deep. This certainly is apparent in this issue of In Focus, which covers a range of important questions addressed in recent months by the National Academies, from the lessons that can be learned from Hurricane Katrina for security, mitigation, and preparedness to how we can learn about the sciences in non-classroom settings, as well as looks at the transportation fuels we could choose to foster a low-carbon economy and the strategies America might choose to respond to climate change.

This issue of the magazine also reminds us that despite our scientific and technological progress, fundamental human and social issues such as conflicts of interest and inequality remain at the fore in our society and even in our own professions. Consider the fact that many women still experience their academic careers in science, engineering, and mathematics differently than most of their male colleagues do. This often results in professional inequities, both subtle and sometimes not so subtle. Considerable progress has been made at our universities; more female administrators are in positions of leadership than was the case even a decade ago, and undergraduate enrollments in most fields of science and engineering are moving toward a better gender balance. However, there continue to be stresses and strains at each step along the way to a successful and satisfying career in these fields.

A recent National Research Council report, Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty, which is summarized in this issue, looked at individual and institutional experiences in this regard, with some revealing and useful findings. I believe it is essential that as a community we resolve these issues and the even more complex challenges regarding the overall racial and cultural diversity of our institutions if we are to truly serve our nation and world now and in the future.

Finally, it bodes well for our institution that we are able to report on President Obama’s speech to the National Academy of Sciences’ annual meeting. His appearance, soon after his inauguration, is a historically significant moment for us all and one that is emblematic of the growing importance of the work of the Academies to our nation’s future.


    CHARLES M. VEST
    President
    National Academy of Engineering



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Copyright 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences