RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — In the red-hot debate about outsourcing and whether the United States is producing enough engineers, one could say Vivek Wadhwa sees the world as round and Thomas Friedman sees the world as flat.

Wadhwa, the outspoken founder of Relativity Software, and his students at Duke University continue to generate global attention with research they published in December that counters conventional wisdom about an engineering crisis in the United States.

“It amazes me how national priorities are set without facts as a basis,” Wadhwa wrote to WRAL Local Tech Wire.

Wadhwa rode to the defense of the U.S. in producing engineers vs. a global threat from India and China in the latest column he wrote for BusinessWeek online. Now an executive-in-residence and an adjunct professor at Duke University, Wadhwa was responding to comments made by Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize winner, in an updated version of the 2005 bestseller “The World Is Flat”.

Wadhwa had no idea Friedman was commenting on his work. “No, we just showed up in his 2006 book,” Wadhwa said. “I felt compellted to respond!”

On one point, Wadhwa, who was born in India and lived in Australia before moving to the United States, counters a Friedman claim that most engineering undergratues in the U.S. are foreign nationals.

“According to the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE), the percentage of undergraduate engineering degrees awarded to students with U.S. citizenship or permanent residency has remained close to 92% for the past seven years,” Wadhwa wrote in his column.

In an article titled “Engineering Gap? Fact and Fiction”, Wadhwa wrote that there is no need “to panic” about the number of engineers India and China are producing.

“As a former tech CEO, I learned to sleep with one eye open,” he wrote. “Competition is always looming and it doesn’t take much to lose your edge. So I found you need to focus on your strengths and force the competition to battle on your own turf.

“And as a professor researching engineering and globalization, I am baffled by how the U.S. seems to be doing the opposite. Instead of honing our own strengths, we’re focused on the strengths of our new global competitors. The reality is India and China will always have an advantage in their numbers. But we have the freest markets, the most highly trained workforce, the resources and ability to innovate, and the best universities in the world.”

For Wadhwa’s critique of the engineering situation, see: businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/jul2006/sb20060710_949835.htm

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