Major Shifts in World Economy Confront U.S. Status as Industrial Leader, Says New S&E Indicators Report
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Recent shifts in industrial research and development (R&D) in the United States and abroad--especially in Asia--are narrowing the margin of technological advantage of U.S. firms, according to a new government report. The U.S. remains the leading performer of R&D by a wide margin, accounting for about 44 percent of the industrial world's investment, although America's share has declined over the last two decades.
These observations are among hundreds of trends and statistics in the just-released National Science Board report, Science and Engineering Indicators 1996. The Board oversees the National Science Foundation, which produces the biennial compendium of vital statistics to help decision-makers assess the performance of the nation's science and engineering (S&E) enterprise.
"The health of the science-technology enterprise of the United States is the main thing that stands between us and a lower-wage future," says Robert M. Solow, winner of the 1987 Nobel prize in economic science, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a member of the National Science Board.
In referring to the S&E Indicators report, Solow says, "This fat volume is the prime source of basic data about the whole system, from the education of students to society's gain from R&D investment. It should be studied, thought about, and acted upon."
Cora B. Marrett, assistant director for the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, says "Science and economic growth have become increasingly integrated and global. We prepared the Science and Engineering Indicators report to meet the needs of leaders for relevant and reliable data to assess international opportunities and to make informed decisions affecting our nation's future."
According to S&E Indicators, while U.S. industrial R&D expenditures are greater than all industrial sectors of the European Union combined, and twice the industrial R&D performed in Japan, major shifts in the U.S. and abroad threaten to narrow America's margin of technological advantage. In the 1990s industry funding in real dollars generally was flat and federal funding fell (In the U.S., industry now funds about 60% of R&D; the federal government, 36%).
Other major data reported in S&E Indicators include:
S&E Indicators also contains data on elementary and secondary school science and mathematics education, higher education's role in S&E, and public attitudes and understanding of science and technology. Required by law, S&E Indicators is submitted by the National Science Board to the president of the United States, who delivers it to Congress.
The Committee on Science and Engineering Indicators, chaired by Phillip A. Griffiths, oversaw preparation of the report for the National Science Board.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
Useful NSF Web Sites: