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The National Science Board (Board) is required under the National Science Foundation (NSF) Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1863 (j) (1) to prepare and transmit the biennial Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) report to the President and to the Congress by January 15 of every even-numbered year. The report is prepared by the NSF Division of Science Resources Statistics (SRS) under the guidance of the Board. It is subject to extensive review by Board members, outside experts, interested federal agencies, and SRS internal reviewers for accuracy, coverage, and balance.

Indicators are quantitative representations—summaries—of factors relevant to the scope, quality, and vitality of the science and engineering (S&E) enterprise. SEI is the major authoritative source of these high-quality U.S. and international data. SEI is factual and policy-neutral; it neither offers policy options nor makes policy recommendations. The indicators included in the report are intended to contribute to the understanding of the current S&E environment.

This digest of key S&E indicators draws from the Board's Science and Engineering Indicators 2010, the 19th volume of this biennial series. The digest serves to draw attention to important trends and data points from across SEI 2010 and to introduce readers to the data resources available in the report. Readers are invited to explore each of the key indicators presented here in more detail in the full report. To that end, each indicator presented in this digest is matched with the SEI 2010 chapter or chapters from which it was drawn. The complete SEI 2010 report and related resources are available on the Web at

Readers may also be interested in resources associated with SEI 2010, which include Globalization of Science and Engineering Research, the Board's companion policy piece to SEI 2010. The section "SEI 2010 Online Resources" at the end of this digest provides a complete list and descriptions of these products and tools. The Board hopes that readers will take advantage of these rich sources of information.


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 will challenge the world leadership role of the United States.

Key S&E Indicators

The National Science Board has selected 31 S&E indicators for inclusion in this digest. These indicators have been grouped into six topical areas. Although each stands alone, collectively these six themes are a snapshot of U.S. R&D capacity and outputs in a global context. Exploration of areas that indicate capacity for innovation is a thread common to many of the themes presented here. As economies worldwide grow increasingly knowledge-intensive and interdependent, capacity for innovation becomes ever more critical.

Three themes provide a worldwide view, picturing R&D spending, research outputs, and science and technology capacities. Three others share a domestic focus, providing indicators of U.S. R&D: funding and performance, federal R&D support, and the U.S. S&E workforce. These topical indicators may vary in successive volumes of the Science and Engineering Indicators series as contemporary S&E policy issues emerge.

What These 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. science and engineering and to highlight issues of current opportunity or concern. These measures address an emerging set of trends of particular interest to planners and policymakers at all levels whose decisions affect our national S&E enterprise.

First Theme
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