A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends the U.S. government reduce barriers to international students coming to the United States for atomic, molecular and optical, or AMO, physics research.
The U.S. government should foster more international collaboration in these areas if it wishes to remain at the forefront of these fields globally, the report, "Manipulating Quantum Systems: An Assessment of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics in the United States" said Wednesday. The report warned that an inability to welcome international physicists in the U.S. while foreign countries increase their efforts in the field could lead to less vital research coming from the U.S.
"The U.S. can keep pace with this growth internationally through strategic investments in vital areas of AMO science, and through collaborating across both disciplinary and international lines," said Nergis Mavalvala, committee co-chair.
"The participation of women and underrepresented minorities in AMO science is far below the demographic composition of the U.S. Not tapping this talent pool to its full potential is a continuously lost opportunity," she added.
The study recommended that the U.S. Department of State work to "remove excessive visa application delays for international students" trying to come to the U.S. for AMO research. The study was sponsored by the Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
More international students come to the U.S. from around the world for higher education than any other country, but an annual Open Doors report, compiled by the Institute for International Education with the State Department, and released Monday for the 2018-2019 school year, showed stagnation — and steep declines from some countries — for the second year after decades of growth.
Institutions polled indicated the slowdown includes the high cost of tuition at U.S. colleges and universities, difficulty in getting visas or challenges in maintaining a student visa, students feeling that they are not being welcomed in the U.S., negative political rhetoric and news of crime in the U.S.
"Promoting international student mobility remains a top priority for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and we want even more students in the future to see the United States as the best destination to earn their degrees," said Marie Royce, assistant secretary of state for that bureau. "International exchange makes our colleges and universities more dynamic for all students, and an education at a U.S. institution can have a transformative effect for international students, just like study abroad experiences can for U.S. students."