On 15 January 2010, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released the most recent snapshot of the nation’s scientific research and education system. According to this year’s report, “The state of the science and engineering (S&E) enterprise in America is strong, yet its lead is slipping….” Prepared biennially and delivered to the President and Congress on even numbered years by January 15 as statutorily mandated, Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) provides information on the scope, quality and vitality of the nation’s S&E enterprise.

“The data begin to tell a worrisome story,” said Kei Koizumi, assistant director for federal research and development (R&D) in the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Calling SEI 2010 a “State of the Union on science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” he noted that “U.S. dominance has eroded significantly.”

Koizumi and OSTP hosted the public rollout at which National Science Board (NSB) Chairman Steven Beering, NSF Director Arden L. Bement, Jr., and NSB members presented SEI 2010 data and described a mixed picture. NSB’s SEI Committee Chairman Lou Lanzerotti noted good news for those in the S&E community regarding public attitudes about science. “Scientists are about the same as firefighters in terms of prestige,” he said.

Over the past decade, R&D intensity—how much of a country’s economic activity or gross domestic product is expended on R&D—has grown considerably in Asia, while remaining steady in the U.S. Annual growth of R&D expenditures in the U.S. averaged 5 to 6 percent while in Asia, it has skyrocketed. In some Asian countries, R&D growth rate is two, three, even four, times that of the U.S.

In terms of R&D expenditures as a share of economic output, while Japan has surpassed the U.S. for quite some time, South Korea is now in the lead—ahead of the U.S. and Japan.

Investment in R&D is a major driver of innovation, which builds on new knowledge and technologies, contributes to national competitiveness and furthers social welfare. R&D expenditures indicate the priority given to advancing science and technology (S&T) relative to other national goals.

To review Science and Engineering Indicators 2010, please visit http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/indicators.

 


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