The United States holds a preeminent position in science and engineering (S&E) in the world, derived in large part from its long history of public and private investment in S&E research and development (R&D) and education. Investment in R&D, science, technology, and education correlate strongly with economic growth, as well the development of a safe, healthy, and well-educated society.
Many other nations, recognizing the economic and social beneﬁts of such investment, have increased their R&D and education spending. This trend could potentially challenge the world leadership role of the United States.
The category of general indicators has been further divided into three subcategories reﬂecting important areas of the S&E enterprise: patterns of R&D investment (six indicators), S&E workforce development (three indicators), and knowledge output (three indicators). The ﬁrst subset tracks spending patterns of the United States as well as relative R&D spending patterns of selected countries and regions around the world. Notably lacking at this time are indicators measuring investments in education, as well as investment activities in physical infrastructure. The Board believes that both of these are necessary for a complete assessment of the S&E enterprise of the United States. Future editions of the Board's S&E digest will seek to include such indicators. The second subset reﬂects the fact that a vital S&E workforce is a critical component of a strong S&E infrastructure. For that reason, this set of indicators characterizes the patterns of S&E degree production and workforce development. The third and ﬁnal subset of general indicators measure knowledge output. These examine trends in publishing and patenting.
What These Key S&E Indicators Tell the Nation
By selecting a set of general and topical indicators, the Board seeks to contribute to the assessment of the state of U.S. S&E - the Board's mandate for producing the biennial series of SEI - and also to point out issues of current opportunity or concern. The general and topical S&E indicators presented in this digest will provide valuable guidance and important feedback to planners and policymakers at all levels whose decisions aﬀect our national S&E enterprise.