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International Collaborations of Scientists and Engineers in the United States

NSF 12-323 | August 2012 | PDF format. PDF  
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by Jaquelina Falkenheim and Nirmala Kannankutty[1]

International collaboration is a key aspect of the globalization of science and engineering (S&E). In 2006, according to the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT), one in six scientists and engineers in the United States reported working with individuals in other countries (table 1).[2] International collaboration was more likely to occur among persons working in the for-profit sector, men, and those with higher levels of educational attainment. Individuals who earned postsecondary degrees both in the United States and abroad reported the highest levels of international collaboration.

TABLE 1. Scientists and engineers reporting international collaboration, by employment sector and demographic characteristics: 2006
(Percent)
Business/industry Government Education
Characteristic Total (n) Reporting international collaboration For profit Self-employeda Nonprofit Federal State/local 4-year educational institutionsb Other educational institutionsc
All employed scientists and engineers (n) 18,927,000 - 7,682,000 3,624,000 1,830,000 824,000 1,405,000 1,549,000 2,014,000
Reporting international collaboration 3,157,000 16.7 26.7 13.2 6.9 17.8 4.9 14.8 3.0
Sex
Male 2,293,000 21.5 30.8 15.6 11.5 19.5 5.7 18.1 4.4
Female 865,000 10.5 18.9 8.6 4.9 14.3 4.1 11.6 2.3
Place of birth
United States 2,397,000 15.3 25.0 11.5 6.7 18.5 4.7 13.9 2.9
Outside of United States 761,000 23.7 33.4 21.2 8.5 12.4 6.6 17.9 3.8
Highest degree of educational attainmentd
Bachelor's 1,761,000 16.2 24.2 14.0 5.4 15.2 4.9 10.5 3.1
Master's 970,000 18.0 33.7 16.9 8.6 20.6 4.6 10.1 2.7
Doctorate 254,000 28.8 43.7 20.1 24.1 32.8 12.8 26.5 8.1
Location of postsecondary education
All degrees earned in United States 2,675,000 15.7 25.4 12.3 6.7 17.9 4.7 13.9 2.9
Degrees earned abroad and in United States 229,000 31.4 44.9 25.8 13.3 21.4 11.1 19.0 7.4
All degrees earned abroad 254,000 22.8 31.1 18.2 8.6 10.6 7.2 21.7 4.1
Occupation
S&E occupations 1,416,000 28.2 37.1 25.6 16.8 18.4 6.1 18.8 2.7
Computer and mathematical scientists 667,000 31.6 40.1 29.7 12.5 18.2 5.3 12.1 1.9
Biological, agricultural, and other life scientists 116,000 23.9 34.0 24.4 28.3 18.5 11.2 22.3 7.4
Physical scientists 80,000 23.9 30.7 17.5 35.7 25.5 4.6 23.7 4.4
Social scientists 70,000 14.8 34.3 9.2 10.4 20.0 2.9 19.0 1.8
Engineers 483,000 29.8 34.6 28.8 24.5 16.5 6.4 19.4 6.7
S&E-related occupations 394,000  7.5 13.6 4.9 3.4 13.0 4.0 9.6 2.7
Non-S&E occupations 1,348,000 15.6 24.1 13.9 8.8 19.7 4.8 14.1 3.2

S&E = science and engineering.

a Includes those who are self-employed or business owners in incorporated or unincorporated businesses, professional practices, or farms.
b Includes 4-year colleges or universities, medical schools (including university-affiliated hospitals or medical centers), and university-affiliated research institutes.
c Includes 2-year colleges, community colleges, technical institutes, and other precollege institutions.
d Professional degrees are included in total reporting international collaboration but are not shown separately.

NOTES: Scientists and engineers refers to all persons who have received a bachelor's degree or higher in S&E or S&E-related field, plus persons holding a non-S&E bachelor's or higher degree who were employed in an S&E or S&E-related occupation in 2003. Numbers rounded to nearest thousand. Detail may not add to total because of rounding.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT), 2006.

Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

This InfoBrief examines the profile of U.S. scientists and engineers engaged in international collaboration, the means of communication they used, and the relationship between work activities in their principal job and the extent to which they collaborated internationally. Much of the previous literature on scientific international collaboration has focused on its impact on scientific research. Measurement of international collaboration has primarily used coauthorship and publication citation data (Frame and Carpenter 1979, Schubert and Braun 1990, Okubo et al. 1992). Others have focused on international collaboration relationships among specific countries (He 2009, Mattson et al. 2008) or on understanding the growth of international collaboration (Wagner and Leydesdorff 2005). This InfoBrief takes a different approach, focusing on individuals who report engaging in international collaboration in their work, regardless of whether that work has a research component, and covering international collaboration activities in all sectors of the economy.

Profile of International Collaborators

Employment sector. Reported international collaborations were higher among scientists and engineers working in the for-profit sector (27%) than in the federal government (18%) or in 4-year educational institutions (15%) (table 1). The higher level of for-profit sector collaboration holds regardless of gender, place of birth, highest degree attained, location of postsecondary education, as well as in most broad occupations.

Gender. Across all employment sectors, men were more likely than women to report international collaboration.

Place of birth. Across most employment sectors, scientists and engineers born outside of the United States were more likely than the U.S.-born to work with colleagues in other countries. However, among those working for the federal government, the U.S.-born had higher collaboration levels than those born outside of the United States.

Highest degree of educational attainment. Doctorate holders in all sectors were more likely than individuals with other types of degrees to engage in international collaborations.

Location of postsecondary education. Individuals with degrees from both U.S. and foreign institutions were the most likely to collaborate internationally across almost all employment sectors. The one exception was for the employment sector of 4-year colleges and universities, where those who had earned all their degrees abroad were the most likely to collaborate internationally. Generally, those with U.S.-only degrees were the least likely to report international collaboration, the exception being federal government employees.

Occupation. Individuals employed as computer and mathematical scientists were the most likely of those in all broad occupations to collaborate internationally (32%); in the for-profit sector, this proportion rose to 40%. In 4-year educational and in non-profit institutions, physical scientists and biological, agricultural, and other life scientists were the most likely to collaborate internationally. Among the self-employed, the most likely to do so were computer and mathematical scientists and engineers.

Large differences in the incidence of international collaboration exist within the same broad occupational categories (table 2). Postsecondary teachers within each occupational category were among the least likely to report international collaborations, whereas S&E managers within S&E-related occupations generally reported high involvement. Chemical engineers reported the highest level of international collaboration out of all occupations (43%), and psychologists; civil, architectural, or sanitary engineers; and environmental life scientists reported the lowest levels (7%–8%).

TABLE 2. Rate of international collaboration of employed U.S. scientists and engineers, by detailed occupation: 2006
Occupation Total     Percent
All employed scientists and engineers 18,927,000 16.7
S&E occupations 5,024,000 28.2
Computer and mathematical scientists 2,112,000 31.6
Computer and information scientists 1,938,000 32.8
Mathematical scientists 85,000 26.3
Postsecondary teachers—computer and math sciences 90,000 10.7
Biological, agricultural, and other life scientists 487,000 23.9
Agricultural and food scientists 57,000 23.8
Biological and medical scientists 336,000 27.0
Environmental life scientists 35,000  8.2
Postsecondary teachers—life and related sciences 60,000 15.5
Physical scientists 334,000 23.9
Chemists, except biochemists 134,000 31.3
Earth scientists, geologists, and oceanographers 80,000 17.4
Physicists and astronomers 29,000 29.7
Other physical and related scientists 39,000 13.4
Postsecondary teachers—physical and related sciences 52,000 19.5
Social scientists 470,000 14.8
Economists 33,000 31.8
Political scientists 20,000 24.0
Psychologists 177,000  6.5
Sociologists and anthropologists 21,000 22.2
Other social and related scientists 103,000 20.0
Postsecondary teachers—social and related sciences 115,000 15.2
Engineers 1,621,000 29.8
Aerospace, aeronautical, or astronautical engineers 96,000 29.1
Chemical engineers 80,000 43.0
Civil, architectural, or sanitary engineers 266,000  7.4
Electrical or computer hardware engineers 395,000 35.6
Industrial engineers 93,000 37.0
Mechanical engineers 305,000 38.2
Other engineers 348,000 29.3
Postsecondary teachers—engineering 38,000 19.8
S&E related occupations 5,246,000  7.5
Health-related occupations 3,625,000  4.2
S&E managers 382,000 33.9
S&E pre-college teachers 644,000  2.9
S&E technicians and technologists 371,000 17.4
Other S&E-related occupations 224,000 12.5
Non S&E occupations 8,657,000 15.6
Non-S&E managers 1,118,000 29.0
Management-related occupations 1,361,000 22.6
Non-S&E precollege teachers 724,000  2.3
Non-S&E postsecondary teachers 141,000 12.6
Social services and related occupations 714,000  5.6
Sales and marketing occupations 1,435,000 18.7
Art, humanities, and related occupations 262,000 19.3
Other non-S&E occupations 2,902,000 11.2

S&E = science and engineering.

NOTES: Scientists and engineers refers to all persons who have received a bachelor's degree or higher in S&E or S&E-related field, plus persons holding a non-S&E bachelor's or higher degree who were employed in an S&E or S&E-related occupation in 2003. Numbers rounded to nearest thousand. Detail may not add to total because of rounding.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT), 2006.

Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

Means and Patterns of International Collaboration

Travel. Nearly half of all employed scientists and engineers indicated that their foreign collaborators traveled to the United States to conduct their work. Fewer U.S. scientists and engineers reported that they themselves had traveled abroad (table 3), with more men than women reporting that they traveled abroad or that their collaborators traveled to the United States. Travel abroad for international collaboration activities increased with respondent's age and level of degree. Non-U.S.-born scientists and engineers traveled more than their U.S.-born counterparts.

TABLE 3. Employed U.S. scientists and engineers reporting international collaboration, by means of communication, demographic characteristics, and employment sector: 2006
Means of collaboration (%)
Characteristic and employment sector Total Telephone
or e-mail
Web-based
or virtual
communication
Foreign collaborator
traveled to United
States
U.S. collaborator
traveled abroad
Total reporting international collaboration 3,157,000 94.6 56.0 49.4 32.2
Sex
Male 2,293,000 95.2 57.0 53.1 36.2
Female 865,000 93.2 53.4 39.7 21.6
Place of birth
United States 2,397,000 94.2 54.4 49.0 30.3
Outside of United States 761,000 95.8 61.3 50.8 38.2
Age group
29 or younger 354,000 93.9 56.0 45.2 20.3
30–39 911,000 95.1 57.8 49.7 29.1
40–49 1,008,000 96.1 58.4 51.5 33.9
50–59 671,000 92.1 53.7 48.7 37.3
60–69 192,000 95.1 45.5 47.5 40.6
70 or older 22,000 89.0 38.9 52.1 40.5
Highest degree of educational attainmenta
Bachelor's 1,761,000 93.7 56.1 47.0 28.4
Master's 970,000 96.0 60.2 52.4 35.7
Doctorate 254,000 97.4 47.0 58.6 47.3
Employment sector
Business/industry 2,653,000 95.8 58.3 50.5 32.2
For profit 2,048,000 96.1 59.7 52.4 31.6
Self-employedb 478,000 95.1 56.8 42.9 34.2
Nonprofit 127,000 92.7 40.5 48.4 33.4
Government 216,000 87.8 48.4 41.4 29.4
Federal 146,000 89.2 50.3 43.3 35.9
State/local 69,000 84.7 44.4 37.3 15.7
Education 289,000 89.2 41.3 45.3 34.2
4-year educational institutionsc 229,000 92.7 41.5 48.5 37.7
Other educational institutionsd 60,000 75.9 40.3 33.2 20.6

S&E = science and engineering.

a Professional degrees are included in total reporting international collaboration but are not shown separately.
b Includes those who are self-employed or business owners in incorporated or unincorporated businesses, professional practices, or farms.
c Includes 4-year colleges or universities, medical schools (including university-affiliated hospitals or medical centers), and university-affiliated research institutes.
d Includes 2-year colleges, community colleges, or technical institutes, and other precollege institutions.

NOTES: Scientists and engineers refers to all persons who have received a bachelor's degree or higher in S&E or S&E-related field, plus persons holding a non-S&E bachelor's or higher degree who were employed in an S&E or S&E-related occupation in 2003. Respondents can report more than one means of collaboration. Numbers rounded to nearest thousand. Detail may not add to total because of rounding.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT), 2006.

Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

Communication patterns. Scientists and engineers used multiple means of communicating during international collaboration. Virtually all scientists and engineers involved in international collaboration used telephone or e-mail, and over half used Web-based or virtual communication (table 3). Most of them combined two or more means of communication (figure 1). One out of five communicated by telephone, e-mail, or through Web-based or virtual communication without any travel involved. A similar proportion reported communicating by telephone or e-mail without any Web-based or virtual communication or travel. Sixteen percent of scientists and engineers combined all means of communication, including telephone or e-mail with Web-based or virtual communication and travel in both directions, whereas a similar proportion indicated the same pattern without traveling abroad.

FIGURE 1. Combined patterns of communication that are used by U.S. scientists and engineers for international collaboration: 2006.

                                     Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file

Work Activities and International Collaboration

U.S. scientists and engineers collaborate across national boundaries in a range of work activities. Scientists and engineers who are engaged in computer programming, systems, or applications most often reported international collaboration (26%), and those engaged in teaching or professional services least often reported international collaboration (11% and 10%, respectively) (table 4). For most work activities, rates of international collaboration among those in S&E occupations (in particular among computer and mathematical scientists; biological, agricultural, and other life scientists; and engineers) were higher than rates among those in S&E-related or non-S&E occupations, including for work activities such as teaching and professional services.

TABLE 4. International collaboration rates of employed scientists and engineers, by level of work activity engagement and broad occupation: 2006
S&E occupations
Level of work activity engagement All occupations All S&E occupations Computer, mathematical scientists Biological, agricultural, other life scientists Physical scientists Social scientists Engineers S&E-related occupations Non-S&E occupations
All employed scientists and engineers (n) 18,927,000 5,024,000 2,112,000 487,0007 334,000 470,000 1,621,000 5,246,000 8,657,000
Rate of international collaboration 16.7 28.2 31.6 23.9 23.9 14.8 29.8 7.5 15.6
Engaged in work activity 10% of time or more
Computer programming, systems, or applications development 26.4 32.4 28.5 28.7 20.8 29.6 29.6 17.2 21.9
R&D 22.5 30.7 33.7 26.8 27.6 19.8 31.8 12.0 20.8
Production, operations, maintenance 21.4 31.9 33.4 22.3 25.5 38.0 34.4 10.4 18.8
Quality or productivity management 20.7 33.6 38.8 25.7 26.9 21.7 32.0 10.9 19.2
Managing or supervising people or projects 20.3 32.3 36.9 28.5 29.6 19.9 31.8 9.8 19.6
Accounting, finance, contracts 20.2 27.3 31.6 25.9 25.1 23.2 25.2 12.4 19.8
Human resources, including recruiting, personnel development, training 19.2 32.7 40.3 28.7 24.1 19.2 31.1 11.2 18.7
Sales, purchasing, marketing, customer service, public relations 18.8 32.7 35.9 23.2 22.4 23.4 35.2 8.4 18.6
Teaching 11.0 25.9 28.0 25.4 23.7 14.6 33.7 5.1 11.1
Professional services 9.8 19.5 34.3 21.2 10.1 10.6 15.5 4.5 13.7
Engaged in as primary or secondary work activity
Computer programming, systems, or applications development 27.8 30.6 31.2 22.6 25.9 28.4 27.3 20.2 20.8
R&D 25.3 30.4 31.8 28.4 29.4 20.8 32.0 15.9 21.3
Production, operations, maintenance 17.1 25.4 29.0 15.3 14.9 13.1 27.7 7.4 15.7
Quality or productivity management 20.2 31.1 36.7 19.0 24.8 16.7 30.7 11.3 18.2
Managing or supervising people or projects 20.7 32.4 39.6 27.0 26.3 20.2 30.1 11.1 19.9
Accounting, finance, contracts 17.1 20.9 25.4 17.2 12.1 9.9 21.6 9.2 17.4
Human resources, including recruiting, personnel development, training 16.3 27.3 37.1 15.3 20.9 13.3 25.6 11.1 16.1
Sales, purchasing, marketing, customer service, public relations 18.7 34.0 36.0 11.6 28.5 19.5 40.7 7.9 18.0
Teaching 6.3 15.8 12.9 15.1 18.2 14.0 25.2 3.8 5.8
Professional services 7.5 13.4 29.3 13.9 4.6 6.7 14.0 3.6 12.3
Not engaged in work activity
Computer programming, systems, or applications development 14.0 25.4 28.4 23.3 22.8 14.1 29.9 5.9 14.7
R&D 10.4 19.8 26.7 5.0 6.4 5.8 18.7 3.6 12.0
Production, operations, maintenance 15.8 27.3 31.2 24.4 23.1 14.0 28.1 7.1 15.0
Quality or productivity management 15.0 26.1 28.9 23.4 22.7 13.9 28.6 6.2 14.0
Managing or supervising people or projects 11.2 22.4 25.7 16.3 16.7 9.8 25.5 4.5 8.7
Accounting, finance, contracts 15.3 28.4 31.6 23.4 23.7 12.8 31.6 6.5 12.3
Human resources, including recruiting, personnel development, training 15.7 27.2 29.9 22.7 23.8 13.8 29.5 6.3 13.9
Sales, purchasing, marketing, customer service, public relations 15.6 27.1 30.6 24.0 24.1 12.7 28.2 7.2 12.7
Teaching 19.4 28.8 32.3 23.1 23.9 15.0 29.2 9.8 17.4
Professional services 21.2 29.7 31.3 24.4 25.6 18.6 31.8 14.2 16.6

S&E = science and engineering.

NOTES: Scientists and engineers refers to all persons who have received a bachelor's degree or higher in S&E or S&E-related field, plus persons holding a non-S&E bachelor's or higher degree who were employed in an S&E or S&E-related occupation in 2003. R&D includes basic research, applied research, development, or design activities. Respondentsmay report more than one work activity. Numbers rounded to nearest thousand. Detail may not add to total because of rounding. See SESTAT questionnaires for examples of work activity (http://nsf.gov/statistics/question.cfm#ScienceandEngineeringWorkforce).

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT), 2006.

Table 4 Source Data: Excel file

Data Sources and Availability

Data presented here are from the 2006 SESTAT, which comprises three large demographic and workforce surveys of individuals conducted by the National Science Foundation: the National Survey of College Graduates, the National Survey of Recent College Graduates, and the Survey of Doctorate Recipients. The 2006 surveys included 105,064 individuals, representing a population of about 22 million scientists and engineers, including people trained in S&E or S&E-related fields or working in S&E or S&E-related occupations. All demographic, employment, and education data on scientists and engineers represent the status of these individuals at the respective survey reference dates.

Further information on the SESTAT system can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/sestat/. The full set of detailed tables from the SESTAT integrated database is available in the report Characteristics of Scientists and Engineers in the United States: 2006 at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/us-workforce/.

Definitions

Scientists and engineers include any person who has ever received a bachelor's degree or higher in an S&E or S&E-related field through 30 June 2005, plus persons holding a non-S&E bachelor's or higher degree who were employed in an S&E or S&E-related occupation on 1 October 2003.

S&E fields include biological, agricultural, environmental life sciences; computer and information sciences; mathematics and statistics; physical sciences; psychology; social sciences; and engineering. S&E-related fields include health, science and mathematics teacher education, technology and technical fields, and other S&E-related fields, such as architecture and environmental design and actuarial science. See http://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/docs/ed03maj.html for a detailed description of the educational classification.

S&E occupations include computer and mathematical scientists; biological, agricultural, and other life scientists; physical and related scientists; social and related scientists; and engineers. S&E-related occupations include health related occupations, S&E managers, S&E pre-college teachers, S&E technicians and technologists, and other S&E-related occupations, such as architects and actuaries. See http://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/docs/occ03maj.html for a detailed description of the occupational classification.

Notes

[1]  Jaquelina Falkenheim, Science and Engineering Indicators Program, and Nirmala Kannankutty, Office of the Director, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington, VA 22230 (jfalkenh@nsf.gov; 703-292-7798) (nkannank@nsf.gov; 703-292-7797).

[2]  Data on international collaboration were collected only in 2006. The wording of the question was as follows: "In performing the principal job you held during the week of April 1, 2006, did you work with individuals located in other countries?" The wording of the means of communication was "In your work with individuals located in other countries, did you...? (Mark yes or no for each item). The response categories were as follows: communicate by telephone or e-mail to conduct the work, use web-based or virtual technology to conduct the work, travel to a foreign country for collaborative activities, work with foreign collaborator(s) who traveled to the U.S. to meet with you.

References

Frame JD, Carpenter MP. 1979. International research collaboration. Social Studies of Science 19(4):481–97.

He T. 2009. International scientific collaboration of China with the G7 countries. Scientometrics 80(3):571–82.

Okubo Y, Miguel JF, Frigoletto L, Dore JC. 1992. Structure of international collaboration in science: typology of countries through multivariate techniques using a link indicator. Scientometrics 25(2):321–51.

Mattson P, Laget P, Nilsson A, Sundberg C-J. 2008. Intra-EU vs. extra-EU scientific co-publication patterns in EU. Scientometrics 75(3):555–74.

Schubert A, Braun T. 1990. International collaboration in the sciences, 1981–1985. Scientometrics 19(1–2):3–10.

Wagner C, Leydesdorff L. 2005. Network structure, self-organization and the growth of international collaboration in science. Research Policy 34(10):1608–18.


National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
International Collaborations of Scientists and Engineers in the United States
Arlington, VA (NSF 12-323) [August 2012]


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