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Overview

Introduction

This overview of the National Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators 2012 highlights some major developments in international and U.S. science and technology (S&T). It is not intended to be comprehensive; the reader will find more extensive data in the body of each chapter. Major findings on particular topics appear in the Highlights sections that precede chapters 1–7.

The indicators included in Science and Engineering Indicators 2012 derive from a variety of national, international, public, and private sources and may not be strictly comparable in a statistical sense. As noted in the text, some data are weak, and the metrics and models relating them to each other and to economic and social outcomes need further development. Thus, the emphasis is on broad trends; individual data points and findings should be interpreted with care.

The overview focuses on the trend in the United States and many other parts of the world toward the development of more knowledge-intensive economies in which research, its commercial exploitation, and other intellectual work are of growing importance. Industry and government play key roles in these changes.

The overview examines how these S&T patterns and trends affect the position of the United States, using broadly comparable data wherever possible for the United States, the European Union (EU[1]), Japan, China, and other selected Asian economies (the Asia-8: India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand).

The overview sketches an analytical framework for, and a broad outline of, the main S&T themes, which it then examines through the lens of various indicators. R&D and human resources indicators feature prominently, along with indicators of research outputs and their use in the form of article citations and patents. The overview then describes the growth and structural shifts in international high-technology markets, trade, and relative trade positions.

Some of the data available as of this writing cover all or part of the period of the 2007–09 financial and economic crisis that continues to unsettle the world. The crisis has affected the range of S&T endeavors, from basic research to production and trade of high-technology goods and knowledge-intensive services. The full effects of these events will take years to become apparent, but, to the extent permitted by available data, the overview will comment on recession-induced changes in the major well-established trends.

Notes

[1] Unless otherwise noted, EU refers to the 27 member countries of the European Union.
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