Skip to Digest of Key Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 main content.
blank spacer image General Science and Engineering Indicators
R&D Investment Patterns
S&E Workforce Development
Knowledge Output

Selected Education Indicators
High School Completion Patterns
High School Teachers
Higher Education Enrollments

Selected Global Marketplace Indicators


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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.

Key S&E Indicators

The National Science Board (Board) has selected twenty S&E indicators for inclusion in this digest and grouped them into three categories. The first category represents general S&E indicators that the Board believes will yield important and readily understandable insights into the health of the U.S. S&E enterprise when regularly monitored by planners and policymakers. The second and third categories are carefully selected measures in the areas of education and the global marketplace. Taken together, these measures address an emerging set of trends of particular interest to planners and policymakers. The Board anticipates that these topical indicators may vary in successive volumes of the Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) series as contemporary S&E policy issues emerge.

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.